Sacramento supervisors' vote expected on monitoring CPS changes

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will be asked today to speed up the response to a highly critical report on Child Protective Services and to require monthly reports on progress in correcting problems.

Supervisors are expected to vote on a proposal from board Chairwoman Susan Peters this afternoon that would require CPS to undertake many of the recommendations identified by MGT of America Inc., a private consultant that studied the agency for much of last year at the county's request.

MGT, which delivered its study to the board on March 31, identified a number of deficiencies, including a finding that at least four children died of abuse and neglect after CPS bungled their cases and missed "clear opportunities" to remove them from danger.

The MGT audit was funded by a $100,000 county contract last July after a Bee investigation revealed numerous problems at the child protection agency. It stated that management had failed to implement nearly 300 recommended changes the county's own CPS oversight committee had suggested since 1996.

Those findings were mirrored in a scathing report two weeks later by the county grand jury, which concluded that "Nothing ever changes – ever" at CPS.

When MGT delivered its report March 31, some supervisors were lukewarm about proposed changes, particularly a recommendation that an outside consultant be brought in to force changes. Supervisor Jimmie Yee questioned the quality of the report, and Supervisor Roger Dickinson said he was not convinced about the need for an outsider.

The board agreed then to have county officials study the issue for 90 days, but county officials later said they already are acting on some recommendations. In an April 14 letter to her colleagues, Peters said she wanted a report back to the board in 45 days.

Peters asked the board in her letter to approve a plan for CPS leaders to work with the Child Welfare League of America to determine how that private, nonprofit group might help improve CPS procedures. The league's membership includes CPS' parent agency at the county.

Officials from the league met with CPS on Tuesday and are scheduled to make a presentation to the supervisors at this afternoon's board meeting.

Peters also will ask the board to vote to formally adopt many of the findings in the MGT report, including reducing CPS' 1,300-page policy manual "to a workable number" of pages and to have CPS report back to the board every 30 days on its progress toward making needed changes.

CPS has been under fire since last year because of a string of deaths of children known to the agency, and other problems, including The Bee's revelation that some internal case files had been altered and that at least 7 percent of the agency's roughly 1,000 workers have criminal records.

In the wake of criticism about CPS, Lynn Frank, director of the county Health and Human Services Department that oversees CPS, announced that she would leave her post immediately and retire at the end of 2009.

She made her announcement the day before the grand jury report's release. But county officials said she was not pushed from her job, that the timing was coincidental.

A top county official also assured CPS workers that the head of their agency – Laura Coulthard – is not in any danger of losing her job.

"There is so much change and activity surrounding CPS and DHHS, that rumors are flying " Jim Hunt, acting administrator for the Countywide Services Agency that oversees the two departments, wrote in an e-mail to workers Friday. "A friend of mine in CPS did ask about one rumor, 'Will Laura be leaving, too?'

"The answer is a resounding, 'No!' She has dedicated her career to the children of Sacramento County and is determined to see this through."

Hunt also told CPS workers that "We've had too much negative press.

"The same story seems to keep reappearing under a different headline. It's time to step forward and let folks know that we acknowledge the need to improve, but recognition has to be given for the good work that occurs every day."