Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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April 4th, 2013

Foster Care Issue Explodes

Sullivan County Family Court is inundated with case after case involving children in need of foster care placement due to certain family situations. Not only is it a mandate, but it is an obligation for our judiciary to ensure proper residency of these children.

Family Court Judges Mark Meddaugh and Michael McGuire have been highly praised for their dedication and commitment ensuring children in need of foster care placement are a top priority.

Unfortunately, Sullivan County has done very little to bring facilities here catering to the needs of these children, and they are often shipped upstate. One really has to wonder – Why don’t we have any homes in Sullivan County that provide the services that these children need?

Now comes word that that Commissioner of Health and Family Services Randy Parker submitted a resolution allowing the county to enter into agreements with the Foster Care Agency Providers from July 1 2013 to June 30 2014 “not to exceed amount of 1,050,000.00.

This is a decrease of 75% over what Sullivan County has been spending. In 2012 we spent roughly $4-4.5 million dollars for residential foster care. How can such a request be possible when our courts need to adequately have proper placement for children requiring foster care?

Informed sources have also told me there is a desperate need for the legislature to monitor Parker a bit more closely.

Although Parker must be credited for many bold and new initiatives since being hired, legislators still need to talk to staff, management and labor to learn how employees are being treated. I am told there is a great deal of tension and the county could possibly wind up with a claim of harassment or discrimination against Parker. Many employees are scared to speak out for fear of reprisal.

Getting back to the foster care issue, union leader and community activist Sandra Shaddock made a plea before the Sullivan County Legislature urging them to prevent Parker’s cutbacks at the expense of children in need of such services.

It is Shaddock’s belief that Parker is playing with figures when it comes to those in need of foster care. According to Shaddock, Parker claims there are 83 children in foster care, 46 of that 83, are in residential care, and that there should be only 10.

“Begging the question where should the other 36 children be? Each child has his or her own unique situation. Some suffer from mental illness some have been victims of abuse and/or sexual assaults. Foster care is not simply juvenile delinquent cases,” Shaddock claimed.

Sullivan County does not offer many of the services which the Courts have deemed a necessity to these children. The level of care needed is established by the Courts, not by Foster Care workers.

Shaddock asks, “If we do not have the facilities for these kids locally in Sullivan County, can anyone tell me where foster care workers are supposed to place them, in order to comply with the Court Orders, if in fact they have been inappropriately placed, as Mr. Parker has alluded to?”

Without a doubt if Parker’s request is implemented it will have a devastating impact.

The legislature must pay attention to all the details, compare costs over the years, and ask some tough questions. They should also consult with Judges Mark Meddaugh and Michael McGuire. It is the obligation of Sullivan County to ensure that children who need foster care receive it.

Please See Below for Sandra Shaddock’s Full Statement

Sandra Shaddock’s Plea to The Legislature on Foster Care

On March 17, 2013, the Times Herald Record published an article on Kinship Care, entitled “When Seniors raise their Children’s Kids”.
The article states that “more than 6500 local grandparents, aunts, uncles or other grownups are raising over 9000 children in Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties”.
It further goes on to say that one of every 11 kids in New York State will be raised by someone who is not a parent. One out of every 11.

The US Census bureau estimates for 2012 Sullivan County’s population to be 76,793. In 2011, the percentage of Children under 5 was 5.9 for Sullivan and 6% for the State as a whole, and 22.3% of the population was under 18, in 2011 in Sullivan and the NYS average was 20%.

Suffice to say we are on par with the state averages.
17,124 children in Sullivan County under age 18.

If one of 11 are raised by someone other than a parent, that means 1,556 children in Sullivan County who will be/or are currently being raised by someone other than a parent. If we were on par with the NYS average.

We are not. For once, we are not above the average, we are below it. This is a good thing! The article goes on to list the number of children living with non-parent caregiver families as 1,172. A difference of 384 children below the state projected “average” number.

The article also states that Cornell Cooperative Extension offers a service called RAPP, Relatives as Parents Program. It states that Cornell offers this service in Orange and Ulster Counties. It makes no mention of Sullivan.

Cornell Cooperative Extension receives a significant amount of money from our tax dollars, and they do provide us services. I would venture that there are not 1,172 kids in Sullivan County who are in 4H. This is not meant to knock any program that Cornell is offering, but maybe to enlighten everyone here that there are services which they offer which would be a significant benefit to a larger, more fragile part of our community, and which are not being afforded to our residents, We need to look at those.

In the March Health and Family Services Committee meeting, Commissioner Randy Parker put forth a resolution to enter into negotiations with Foster Care agencies for the 2013-2014 fiscal period. Mr. Parker also stated that there are 83 kids in foster care, 46 of that 83, are in residential care, and that there should be only 10. Begging the question where should the other 36 children be? Each child has his or her own unique situation. Some suffer from mental illness, some have been victims of abuse and/or sexual assaults. FOSTER CARE IS NOT SIMPLY JUVINILE DELIQUENT CASES.

Sullivan County does not offer many of the services which the Courts have deemed a necessity to these children. The level of care needed is established by the Courts, not by Foster Care workers.

If we do not have the facilities for these kids locally in Sullivan County, can anyone tell me where are the Foster Care workers supposed to place them, in order to comply with the Court Orders, if in fact they have been inappropriately placed, as Mr. Parker has alluded to?

In 2012 Sullivan County spent roughly 4-4.5 million dollars for residential foster care. There were 33 contracted agencies according to Mr. Parker, and he has decreased that number to 11 agencies, as per the comments in the Health and Family Services meetings.

There are 83 kids in Foster Care. There are 46 kids in residential foster care. That number used to be over 300. Are there kids in the foster care system longer than we would like? Absolutely. Staffing has been decimated over the last 6 years, which has led to increased responsibilities and higher caseloads. Draconian Cuts made have created consequences that now mean caseworkers are on the road 4-5 days per week. When is there time to do paper work, let’s face it, this is very serious, very involved, detailed paperwork, in some cases terminating the rights of parents.

Let’s call a spade a spade and admit that we are here at the 83/46 numbers, a significant decrease from the 300 that we were at in the past, because we have already worked diligently to get children placed or reunited with their families. The cases that remain are the most difficult, and those that have entered during or after the deep staffing cuts which has lengthened their time in placement.

In January of this year, I foiled the contracts with many of the Foster Care Agencies. These are the businesses, not the local providers which are in question. Each of the contracts “not to exceed” amounts were reduced by 12.5% across the board, regardless of the amounts of Children placed there. Wouldn’t it seem logical if you had two contracts and one had zero children and the other had ten…to decrease the one with zero and increase the one with 10 halfway through the contract, to keep your budget balanced, as opposed to simply cut all of them, evenly across the board, with no plan in place for what happens when these facilities meet or exceed the contracted amounts? Employees, as well as members of this board and I were told the contracts were decreased by 25% by Mr. Parker. The recent resolution which was presented in Health and Family Services Committee meeting further decreases the amount for Foster Care yet again. The decrease this time, represents 75% of the current level we are now spending.

To my knowledge, there have been no discussions by this board on cutting services, no discussions by this board on privatization, no reason or rationale, no explanation for any of these proposed drastic decreases in funding requests. Which you, the members of this board are applying to the most fragile portion of our society, the portion who do not have a say, who have no voice, no one to stand up for them. These are children who under the NYS Social Service Law, the County has a responsibility to care and provide services for.

The funding has simply been cut, without a plan to continue to maintain the levels of care that the Court has ordered, and that the Social Services Law requires us to provide. The amount of children coming into foster care cannot be set, or limited. You can’t control it simply by cutting the number in the budget. You will need to have a long term plan, which to date remains unseen.

If the funding stays at 1.05 million, which is what the Commissioner proposed and the STATE MANDATED program exceed that cost, what happens? Because as I see it, when that department exceeds costs by 75%, there will likely be someone up there saying cut staffing, or cut something else to compensate for it. For an obvious, impossible to sustain goal, set by someone with no plan in place to get there, no foundation in the community to provide the required level of services, no providers in community who offer residential treatment.

This can and will have a devastating impact on the Division of Health and Family Services as a whole if implemented at the proposed funding level. This has the potential to extend further than the Division because a 3 million dollar false savings in December of 2013 can and will equate to a 3 million dollar budget overage by December of 2014.

Please pay attention to details. Look at not only this year’s cost, but also last year’s when approving resolutions. If there are drastic increases or decreases ask the tough questions. Demand answers as to how and why, you have that right, and you have that responsibility, as our elected officials.

Sandra Shaddock’s Letter to Randy Parker

Randy Parker
Commissioner of Health and Family Services
16 Community Lane
Liberty, NY 12754
February 19, 2013

Mr. Parker:

This email is being sent as a follow up to the meeting which took place on February 15, 2013 at the Department of Family Services. These questions specifically apply to the Foster C are Department.

1. As we discussed, at current staffing levels, there is little to no time for case workers to actually manage the case work. They are out of the office 4-5 days a week providing transportation to parents. The Foster Care Department is currently short 2 caseworkers, one supervisor, and three case aides (who are shared amongst CPS, APS, Preventive and FC). Is there a plan to fill the staffing short fall in the Foster Care Department? How many positions and what titles will be filled? Please advise also of the timeframe in which such staffing will be filled.

2. You stated that caseworkers were not adhering to the “not to exceed amounts” in the contracts. The case workers do not have access to those contracts, nor was this ever part of their job. In fact, the contracts were strictly the responsibility of the Commissioner in the past. Are the employees now expected to know the not to exceed amounts and facilitate placement/movement based on those amounts? If so, Local 445 requests bargaining over this change in job duties.

3. You stated that the contracted agency was supposed to provide certain services, and that the caseworkers were not making sure that the contracts were being followed. The caseworkers do not have access to those contracts, nor was this ever part of their job in the past. In the past, contract compliance was the duty of the commissioners. Are the caseworkers now responsible for contract compliance? If so, Local 445 requests bargaining over this change in job duties.

4. You stated that you expect the children who are being moved from various agencies to be home in 6 months, and that hiring additional staff in that department would only lead to future layoffs once those children are brought home. You went on to say that the Union should be advocating to keep kids here, “if more kids are here, you will need more caseworkers”. I am a bit confused on how bringing them back leads to layoffs on one hand, but once they are back, you say we will need more caseworkers. Please clarify this statement.

5. You stated that the contracts’ “not-to-exceed” amounts were reduced by 25% for each contract. The FOIL request showed a decrease of 12.5%. Please clarify which is correct.

6. You stated that we need to stop looking at the services provided by the Department as Foster care, APS, CPS and Preventive, and look at the services as a whole. Each of these services is a specialty, with different laws, regulations, and rules to which the employees administering the programs must adhere. Will there be some sort of training if these are to be intermixed? Are you aware that this was attempted in the past, and how do you propose to address the problems encountered in those past unsuccessful attempts? In addition, please be advised that Local 445 will request bargaining to the extent that any changes to the structure of the Department affect the Department employees’ terms and conditions of employment.

7. You stated in the February 15 meeting comments to the effect that the case workers placed children in certain homes “so that someone else could do the case work”. Can you please indicate where the children in question should have been placed, since it is the courts, not the case workers, that decide on the initial level of placement? Please identify any specific instances in which you believe that this occurred.

8. Since the courts set the level of each child’s initial placement, if a family care plan is established but cannot be adhered to due to current staffing levels, can you please explain how this is due to the fault of the caseworkers, social workers and/or clinicians rather than the employer’s modification of the contracts to reduce the “not-to-exceed” amounts by 12.5% or higher?

9. If the facilities which are being utilized by the County are now further away from the County, won’t this create more of a burden on the already overextended department because (1) it will increase transportation time, and therefore increase employee hours and overtime; and (2) it will increase transportation costs? Won’t the use of these facilities also violate the state’s initiative to keep kids as close to home as possible?

Very truly yours,

Sandra Shaddock

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