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Independent review on county’s safety net system for children and vulnerable adults finds strengths and areas for improvement

Fri, 08/07/2022 - 05:00


The independent review of the county’s services for children and vulnerable adults conducted by Larson LLP, a law firm led by former U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson, is now available to the public. The eight-month review was conducted with the essential purpose to understand, from a comprehensive and systemic perspective, how the system of care performs, including the care provided to the Turpin family.

Larson LLP, with the assistance of a team of subject matter experts that included professors from UC Berkeley, UCLA and Virginia Tech, found that the people providing services are dedicated professionals. Some parts of the process and system, however, have complex issues that can impact services. County leaders understand many of these complex issues and, in many instances, had already begun to address the internal factors that contribute to breakdowns or gaps in service prior to hiring Larson LLP.

The Larson report provides a blueprint to further address these internal issues with concrete recommendations to improve the safety net system. Last year, a board of supervisors ad hoc committee was created to ensure resources were available to the Larson team. The ad hoc committee will oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

“As public servants, our duty is to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are receiving the care and protection they deserve,” said Supervisor Karen Spiegel, second district supervisor and ad hoc committee co-chair. “I am dedicated to making sure we have the tools, resources and staffing to provide that care. This is the time to act and I will support all efforts to meet the challenge.”

Here are three critical areas for continued improvement:

  • Increase staffing and compensation packages in the Children’s Services Division (CSD) and Office of the Public Guardian. These programs are severely understaffed resulting in overwhelming caseloads. The county is positioning itself to compete for social workers amidst a national shortage and high attrition in this field. Additionally, a number of new positions were added to the Office of the Public Guardian.
  • Specifically, as it relates to CSD, expand quality, safe and available placements for children with heightened complex needs. The shortage of placements is a local, statewide and national issue and community support is needed to find the best foster parents.
  • Create a “No Wrong Door” safety net system where are all departments are focused on the client, not the program. More than 40 percent of Riverside County residents receive some level of support from our human services departments. In the last year, the county has dedicated $6.5 million to this effort, including piloting a one-stop office front for residents. There are some state laws that need to change to reach this goal. The county is working on a state senate bill sponsored by Senator Ochoa Bogh to allow information sharing across departments providing holistic care. This bill is on its way to becoming law.

In addition to internal communication factors that contribute to gaps, Larson LLP noted there are external factors that have deeply impacted and stressed the entire system. These factors include a system that is heavily regulated yet underfunded by state and federal sources. In addition, there is a shortage of affordable housing throughout the region and extremely limited available placements for children in care.

Of special note, all $400,000 in the special needs trusts for the Turpin siblings has been accounted for and there was no misappropriation or theft.

The county is committed to finding innovative solutions and implementing recommendations by Larson LLP. Community involvement and support is also needed to solve many of these issues.

To read the report, click here. Read the supplemental material here.