Board of Social Services Minutes
February 9, 2015

Commissioners' Conference Room
Second Floor County Administration Building
10 a.m. 12 p.m.

In Attendance: Commissioner Lew Gaiter, Commissioner Steve Johnson Commissioner Tom Donnelly, Linda Hoffmann, Lorenda Volker, Ginny Riley, Laura Walker, Marsha Ellis, Jim Drendel, Laura Sartor, Geoff Shirley, Angela Mead, Jill Ruttenberg, Tim Walsh, Dale Lake, Catherine Weaver, Pam Bonda Rust, and Ann Marie Grobarek

A recording of this worksession is available at:

Introductions & Announcements
Commissioner Gaiter welcomed everyone and called the meeting to order.

Director Ginny Riley asked if there were any additions to the agenda. Commissioner Johnson requested an update on the reserve fund. Ginny explained that by statute, the Department of Human Services has a reserve fund which has been supporting operations for a number of years. The fund is not in a position to continue to fund ongoing operations or loss of funding for TANF programs at the Workforce Center. Commissioner Johnson requested that Ginny and Joni Friedman make a report before the May Board of Social Services meeting to the Commissioners on how much a County General Fund appropriation would cost to continue the same level of service provided now.

Child Support Process Improvement Measures and 2014 Performance Measure Results
Laura Sartor, Deputy Division Manager, Benefits Planning, presented an overview of Child Support. Key issues presented include:

  • Child Support changing its philosophy over the years from debt collection to finding the best solution for all the parties involved.
  • The process and scope of the services provided, from locating non-custodial parents and establishing paternity to establishing, modifying and enforcing orders.
  • Larimer County exceeded the 4 Federal requirements and one C-Stat requirement for Child Support for 2014.
  • The Performance Improvement Assessment completed by Daniel Pace and David Koons resulted in Child Support committing to improvements including revising training, streamlining processes, increasing customer service and having a central location for information.

Commissioner Donnelley asked for clarification on how the County becomes involved in a Child Support process and when they do not need to be involved. Laura Sartor replied that we are involved if the children are in foster care, if they are on public assistance, if we get a referral from another state, or if someone comes in and applies for our assistance.

Commissioner Johnson mentioned new legislation that could affect the current procedure where counties retain Child Support payments to recoup public assistance cash benefits (TANF) paid to families that qualify. Senator Kefalas has a pending bill that would require all of the money go to the family. Commissioner Johnson asked how large of an issue this would be for funding Larimer County programs. Laura Sartor confirmed that it would affect our budget because currently it all goes towards our TANF budget. The current draft of the bill states the state may backfill the money at issue, and projections are that statewide it could mean as much as 3.5 million dollars in a few years ($175,000 for Larimer County, about 5% of statewide numbers).

Ginny explained that the concept behind legislation is that the non-custodial parent would be more willing to pay knowing that all the money they pay into Child Support goes to their children. The counties' position (from CCI) is that we need to backfill that amount because it will impact our funding. We are still awaiting the fiscal analysis to find out exactly what that will mean for us.

Commissioner Donnelley asked for more of an explanation on the mechanics of retaining the Child Support. Geoff Shirley said that it really depends upon the situation because Child Support is based upon the income of the parties involved. In some cases, the total Child Support payment goes to the County to repay the monthly TANF payment, but we do not keep more than that amount. Laura Sartor explained that another concern about this legislation is that there has not yet been enough consideration regarding how this income is going to affect a family's qualification for programs like LEAP, housing, or child care assistance.

Ginny wanted to draw attention to the $18 million dollars Child Support collected for children, plus medical assistance. She commended Child Support Managers Geoff Shirley and Suzi Tallman for focusing the program on good customer service.

Child Welfare State Audit Update
Jim Drendel, Child Youth and Family Services Division Manager, reported on issues from the audit that specifically have to do with Larimer County. Jim presented the following information:

  • In response to the issues regarding House bill 1451, inter-agency oversight, the State has formed three committees to respond to recommendations from the audit. Thad Paul, Child Youth and Family Services Deputy Division Manager is Chair of the Allocation Committee, Jim is Chair of the Outcome Committee, and Shannon Reiff, Social Caseworker Manager, is Chair of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Committee.
  • Larimer County would like the legislation regarding Child Protection Teams to indicate that counties "may" do this but not that they have to do it. Larimer County family meetings include members of the community and serve a similar purpose.
  • There is no draft of Differential Response legislation yet, but it is the highest priority for CCI.
  • The Foster Care Licensing bill has a very restrictive requirement that would affect kinship placements by removing children from a kin placement if fingerprints are not obtained within five days. We always do a criminal background check for relative placements, but a fingerprint check would require a possible investment in a machine that costs $20,000.00.

Commissioner Johnson asked about whether or not any of the cases from the Child Protection audit that were a problem were Larimer County cases. Jim responded that Larimer County is number one in the State on completing monthly visits on time. The audit mentioned one Larimer County case where they thought we had closed a serious injury case upon assessment, but we had not. The auditors did not see in Trails that the County Attorney had attached the work to a different part of the case. It was an open case but they thought they had closed. Ginny added that we looked at every case to make sure there were no systemic issues, and every note they mentioned could be attributed to the auditor not knowing how to read Trails. Commissioner Johnson explained that the auditors never corrected their presentation to the legislature, which was unfortunate.

Department Strategic Plan, Building Resiliency Project
Angela Mead, Child Youth and Family Services Deputy Division Manager, presented information regarding the Strategic Planning project focusing on building employee resiliency. Angie explained that the project assessed to what extent secondary stress impacts Human Services employees and what the organization can do to support our employees in dealing with secondary stress. Key points included:

  • 137 employees rated their own resiliency, their capacity to bounce back when exposed to a traumatic experience of a client, at an average of 7.9 on a scale of 10.
  • CYF has started the Resilience Alliance, a twelve week support group program, facilitated by experts to give them a safe place to cope.
  • Employee feedback directed the project to focus on communication, boundary setting and facilitating the use of available supports. This resulted in the creation of a Google Site called the Resiliency Center.
  • Supervisors play a vital role in recognizing if secondary stress is impacting work and what they can do to support their employees, so there will also be supervisor tools available for them on the Google Site.
  • Future considerations may include a mentoring program providing one on one support.

Commissioner Johnson asked how we can determine if the Google Site is working. Angie hopes that another survey would provide information on employee access and that it may show an effect in turnover numbers. Jim added that the Resiliency Alliance did a survey showing 35% of employees in CYF intend to leave, and they are hoping to get the number down to twenty percent or so.

Commissioner Johnson asked if there was any way to identify through the survey who said they were not coping well with secondary stress so we could provide assistance. Angie replied that there was no way to identify an individual person, which demonstrates the importance of the supervisor's role in identifying people having problems. Commissioner Johnson said he would like to hear back in about a year or so how the Resiliency Center has worked.

Child Abuse Reporting Statewide Hotline Update
Jill Ruttenberg, Social Caseworker Manager, reported on the implementation of the statewide hotline for reporting concerns of possible child abuse or neglect. Jill explained there are four parts to the hotline, including a new database, call recording, a unique hotline id number, and an Internet based phone system. There is a handout explaining information before and after implementation.

Larimer County was involved early in the process, testing in November and providing feedback to the State. In December, Larimer County committed to the statewide soft rollout in order to get as much exposure as possible, and the State implemented across the board on January 1, 2015.
Jill described several challenges that happened during the rollout as follows:

  • If the Internet failed, phone calls would be lost or information entered into the system would be lost. The workaround involves doing data entry in MS Word so there is an auto-save, and then copying and pasting into the application. This results in additional work.
  • The application does not push information into Trails, so it has to be entered manually, requiring the Intake Specialists to enter the referral information three times.
  • Additional information is required for Trails because of the unique id and a recording. Inquiries for general information take 15-30 minutes to document in Trails, even if it is a wrong number.
  • Application does not allow Intake Specialists to attach a phone call regarding an open case in Trials, so they have to send an email to the worker or supervisor. Application does not alert Intake Specialist that a household is a foster or kin care home, so the related information is not sent to the appropriate people.
  • Community input demonstrates long hold times and phone tree selections before getting to an actual person. Callers are complaining being on hold for six minutes but staff was available to take phone calls. One call was routed back to State help desk twice after periods on hold.
  • Callers are required to make one call for each referral, so a teacher calling about separate concerns for a couple of students has to call multiple times.
  • State phone system and Shoretel do not communicate well, so calls have been dropped.

Some of the benefits of the rollout include the following:

  • Consistency across the State in taking phone calls and generating call reports will help provide more consistent reporting to predict call flow and track patterns.
  • Studies show that recordings of phone calls indicate people report only 80% of what they think they did, so if someone contests information in the referral, the recording can prove what actually was said. It will help quality assurance and training.
  • This provides a bigger net for community to report concerns because we post local and State number for reporting concerns. Larimer has experienced a 10% increase in phone calls, although the State reports a 20% increase.

Commissioner Donnelley asked what people would do if they didn't know what County was the appropriate one. Jill replied that they used to take information and provide some resources, then would forward it to the appropriate County. If someone calls the State hotline, they are asked to indicate what County they need. If the caller doesn't know, then they are sent to a help center to determine the appropriate county. Commissioner Donnelley asked why the State hotline number is on our County website but not on the State website. Angie said the formal rollout of the State hotline will be on April 1, 2015, and they have advised the State to fix these problems before they enter into a massive campaign promoting the hotline. Jill has obtained permission for two additional Limited Term staff to handle call flow for April because of additional workflow issues and any unanticipated issues.

Commissioner Johnson asked for clarification about whether the State is being responsive to our reporting of issues with the hotline. Jill explained that the State acknowledges the input but then they do not follow up in the timeframe she expects or they do something that would not completely resolve her issue. Commissioner Johnson explained that Jack Hilbert has not shared any of these difficulties with CCI, but has said that the implementation is going well

Jim added that the State report shows Larimer County phone calls have increased by 4%, not 10%, but indicated that the additional calls for information count now because they have to be documented. Jim explained that it is a very important issue because a very difficult phone call for any person to make is now becoming more difficult because of technical issues. One County turned the 1-800 number off

Ginny proposed that there be an update in May from Jill along with some written materials that the Commissioners could take to the State if they need to do so. Commissioner Johnson asked for a bulleted list to take to CCI on Friday.

Subsidized Adoption Study Report
Jim Drendel explained a study on the 340 children on subsidized adoption through Larimer County for children who need a permanent home. A monthly subsidy may be paid to cover the needs of the child. Most of Larimer County's children are placed in kinship homes. Larimer County has very little contact with the families after the adoption is completed, although there have been a few occasions where the child has problems that were lingering effects of previous abuse or neglect. Jim asked Colorado State University to do a study to learn more about their needs.

Tim Walsh, Human Services Program Coordinator, thanked Dale Lake, a social psychologist for organizational research and development and member of the Family Consumer Council, who helped Tim complete a study regarding adoption cases. The study used questions from national survey done in 2007 done by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Larimer County has 272 families with subsidized adoptions. They contacted 266 families and received a 55% return. Key points from the survey results were as follows:

  • 72% of the families started as foster parents, and the rest were kinship care situations.
  • 93% of adopted children have birth siblings. Ideal is to place sibling groups together, and more than half of the respondents had more than one adopted child.
  • 91% of parents tell their children that they are adopted.
  • Over 75% asked about their birth parents.
  • 85% of people agreed (52), strongly agreed (44), or had no opinion (20) that they had a positive experience Larimer County Department of Human Services. Jim was surprised at the amount of positive response and asked Pam Bonda Rust, Department Specialist II, and Catherine Weaver, Social Caseworker Manager, to attend today to thank them as they are the representatives of the County that interact with these families.
  • 91% of parents said they would still go through the process, knowing all of the things that they know now.
  • Roughly half of the families receive post-adoption services of family or individual counseling and 76-77% of the families feel those services are helpful.
  • Larimer County can do a better job of leveraging adoptive families to help and recruit other adoptive families. Tim and Dale are recommending developing a newsletter to improve communication about resources, to provide a resource guide to parents with current information, and to review policies and procedures to ensure we are doing everything to support them.

Commissioner Donnelley asked how often we place sibling groups together. Jim did not have exact numbers, but indicated that Larimer County always focuses on the best interest of the child or sibling. The group that responded to this survey had children that were placed before the law was changed to say that siblings should be placed together, but Larimer County tries to do that when it is in the best interests of the children.

Commissioner Gaiter asked if we could see if children who go through this type of adoption would be likely to adopt when they have children. Tim responded that this survey has generated additional questions that would be good to ask in follow up surveys, and that would be a good question to add. In general, this study provides a good baseline of information for future comparisons. Tim and Dale did compare results with the national survey done in 2007, but the Larimer County results correlated with that survey. Commissioner Gaiter said he would like a copy of the report that Tim and Dale put together.

Client Activity Report
Ann Marie Grobarek, Business Operations Coordinator, presented an overview of the department's client activity. Ann Marie reviewed: monthly average caseloads, program activity, complaint totals, and results from the client follow-up survey regarding complaints from October 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014.

During the 4th Quarter of 2014:

  • The Food, Medical & Financial Assistance Program caseloads continue to increase. We currently have 56,186 cases.
  • Child Support collected over $4.3 million.
  • Children, Youth and Family received 1,714 referrals, and 97% of children with a case plan to remain home did.
  • We received a total of 9 complaints during the 4th quarter.

Adult Protection mandatory reporting started July 1, 2014. Case numbers have stayed relatively even, but referrals increased from an average of 68 per month for the first six months of 2014 to an average of 102 per month for the second six months of the year.

Commissioner Gaiter asked about trending totals for number of complaints for the quarter. Ann Marie responded that complaints are trending downwards overall, although the 4th quarter has a few more complaints than the 3rd quarter.

Commissioner Donnelley asked for a chart of the Medicaid cases for the last couple of years. Ann Marie will send one to the Commissioners.

Meeting adjourned.