Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, deputized by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, issued a report today on a review of the huge Department of Human Services.
He calls for a reorganization and streamlining of the agency — something of a deja vu moment for anyone around state government for a long period of time. His report makes broad charges of waste, mismanagement and inefficiency, though provides no immediate citations of the evidence of this. He notes, too, that some of the division of labor within the agency is a product of legislation, not agency management.
In the name of greater efficiency, I note he’d create some new staff.
Another specific and potentially significant change: Moving all investigations of child maltreatment from the Division of Children and Family Services to the State Police. I’d ask whether the State Police are competent to evaluate the social services role in situations where children were mistreated. That’s a critical question apart from criminal law evaluations. Plus, the State Police division is small. It would require a staff expansion most likely to take on all this work.
The governor issued a comment:
Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin spent a great deal of time on this project and conducted an extraordinary number of interviews in preparation for his report to my office. I was delighted to meet with him and hear his ideas on more effective organization of DHS. I am looking forward to reviewing these ideas with our new DHS Director Cindy Gillespie, and I have no doubt that some of his insights will be very helpful in creating a DHS atmosphere that is supportive of the employees and allows us to effectively manage the department to conserve taxpayers’ money.”
Update from Benji: Shifting every child maltreatment investigation from DCFS to the State Police (specifically, the law enforcement agency’s Crimes Against Children Division) is indeed a big deal. The most recent quarterly report from DCFS says there were 8,877 reports of child maltreatment received during the quarter, a broad classification that includes everything from “environmental neglect” — kids living in an unsafe or unsanitary home — to outright child abuse. Of those reports, only 18 percent were assigned to CACD; those 1,599 cases are the most serious cases, typically involving physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or fatalities or near-fatalities.
The other 82 percent, or some 7,278 cases, were assigned to DCFS workers rather than state police. Making CACD responsible for all child maltreatment investigations would entail reworking the entire system by which such inquiries are conducted.
Aside from child welfare, Griffin’s recommendations include talk of breaking down “silos” between divisions and reorganizing managerial control over procurement. This is surely a reference to the various bungled IT contracts that have plagued DHS in the past two years as the agency has struggled to construct various new software systems to adapt to technological and policy changes in health care. (Here’s one example, but not the only one.)
Griffin’s statement and “core recommendations:”
“DHS provides critical services to our most vulnerable citizens, and DHS employees perform valuable work—especially those on the front lines across the state working every day to improve the lives of their fellow Arkansans. But even the best employees are hampered by an antiquated organizational structure, managerial obstacles, unacceptably poor internal communications, waste, mismanagement and duplication of work. My ‘Core DHS Recommendations,’ detailed below, address these problems from an organizational perspective as requested by the Governor. The good news is that we have an opportunity to reorganize DHS in a bold, innovative and comprehensive way that puts a premium on customer service: Scrap the silo-prone divisional structure and replace it with integrated human services delivery to serve our most vulnerable Arkansans better and save taxpayer dollars. An integrated approach to services delivery is a holistic one that considers all of the client information available and ensures coordination throughout DHS and with other state agencies. This approach allows outcomes to be measured more accurately to determine success or failure. Also, many of the organizational problems at DHS reflect state law impacting numerous departments and agencies and provide an opportunity to institute reforms government-wide. I learned a lot about DHS and state government during my more than 185 interviews. And while much of that information is outside the scope of the Governor’s requested review and not the subject of this release, I will put it to good use as part of a broader look at state government and advocate for reforms based on the information gathered.”Core DHS Recommendations
ü Reorganize DHS by adopting an organizational approach that integrates the delivery of human services and focuses on the needs of the Arkansan, the client. An integrated approach eliminates the silos created by divisions that fail to communicate with one another to ensure the client receives the best individualized combination of services for his or her specific needs.
ü Strengthen the role of the DHS Chief Financial Officer (CFO) by giving the CFO managerial control over all division CFOs.
ü Strengthen the role of the Assistant Director for Contract Support Services (ADCSS) by giving the ADCSS managerial control over all division contract and procurement staff. Rename the ADCSS by removing the word “Support.”
ü Establish education and experience requirements for CFOs.
ü Establish an Office of Legislative Affairs to handle communications with the legislature in a consistent and organized way.
ü Increase flexibility for managers by streamlining the process for changing titles, job descriptions, number of employees, job requirements, etc.
ü Institute new employee orientation that provides comprehensive holistic training regarding DHS and the services it provides.
ü Strengthen the Office of Quality Assurance.
ü Move all investigations of child maltreatment from the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) regardless of severity.
ü Return to the previous structure at the Arkansas State Police where specific commissioned police officers are assigned to the CACD for a specified time to develop expertise in this area.
ü Further study whether Administrative Law Judges should be moved out of DHS consistent with the Model Administrative Procedures Act.
ü Adopt comprehensive reform of personnel laws relating to pay, hiring, firing, rewarding and disciplining of employees and the grievance process with the goal of recruiting, training and retaining productive employees and providing a career ladder for them to progress.
ü Move toward brick and mortar consolidation for county offices, where feasible, to increase access to county services.
ü Implement a computer system platform that employs a centralized intake to share data across all services provided.