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Results released from federal Alaska Child and Family Services Review

Alaska has received results from the Child and Family Services Review undertaken last year by the Children’s Bureau, U.S. Administration for Children and Families.

“We’re pleased to see from this review that Alaska has made measurable strides in our child protective services system,” said Office of Children’s Services Director Tammy Sandoval. “These results provide us with confirmation that the path we had already been following is exactly the path for us to continue on, to keep Alaska’s children safe and help their families grow stronger.”

The review began with an analysis of Alaska’s child welfare data and a Statewide Assessment developed by the Office of Children’s Services, Department of Health and Social Services. In addition, during the week of Sept. 8, 2008, on-site reviews of 65 Alaska cases (from Anchorage, Juneau and Bethel) and interviews with local and state stakeholders were conducted.

The review measured performance on 23 items related to seven safety, permanency and well-being outcomes, and 22 items related to seven systemic factors. Items were rated as either a “Strength,” or as an “Area Needing Improvement” (ANI).

Alaska’s results showed ratings of Strength in several areas. Some of those strengths were:

  • maintaining children in their own communities;
  • providing relative placement resources when needed;
  • ensuring children’s relationships with their parents and siblings are maintained; and
  • meeting the national standards for the data indicator pertaining to achieving permanency for children in foster care for extended time periods.

Alaska also received high marks for implementation of a comprehensive data system, the Online Resource for the Children of Alaska (ORCA), which informs those using the system immediately with details of every child in foster care in the state.

Areas needing attention and improvement include: safety; permanency or well-being; quality assurance; and training. Foster and adoptive parent licensing, recruitment and retention efforts also require continual attention. Since the review was completed, the OCS has already shown measurable improvements in some of these areas.

Each state’s CFSR culminates in a requirement to respond to the federal review with a written Program Improvement Plan (PIP) that addresses each area found to be needing improvement. Alaska’s PIP must be submitted by May 4, 2009.

Alaska has already begun its PIP work. More than 50 participants attended the PIP kick-off meeting in Anchorage earlier this year. Those participating included OCS staff, service providers, program staff, focus groups, and other partners and organizations. Workgroups were established that will meet twice a month and will reach out to a broad array of stakeholders through the use of focus groups, using established community and statewide forums.

Alaska entered a PIP containing specific action steps, tasks and goals in September 2003, following a CFSR the previous year. In November 2006, Alaska was notified by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that it had successfully completed that PIP, making major system improvements to its child protective services system.