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Vitale: Child Welfare Report Shows Room For Improvement

Senate Health Chair Says Child Welfare Reform Efforts Not Living Up to Expectations

TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the New Jersey Child Welfare Panel’s release of its most recent Monitoring Report:

“The NJ Child Welfare Panel was created to ensure the success of necessary reforms to the State’s child welfare system, following a series of lapses and tragic missteps that had endangered children in the State’s care. One year out, the report finds that New Jersey is still ranked poorly in many of the key areas in which we needed to improve.

“The report indicates that we can and must do better. I wholly agree.

“While we’ve made improvements in the staffing levels that had previously encumbered DYFS caseworkers with burdensome caseloads, and appropriated the necessary funds to get the ball rolling on child welfare reform, we are still far behind in other areas. We need to improve the State’s efforts in terms of training new staffers and providing the necessary organizational structure to help children and their families, and where necessary, place kids in safe, stable adoptive homes.

“The report mentions that the professionals currently working to improve child welfare in New Jersey have been dedicated and committed individuals, and I think it’s important to recognize that the failure to achieve more is not an individual failure, but an organizational one. The report does not place blame for the failures on the individual caseworkers in the trenches every day, striving to bring top-notch care to the children most in need. However, it’s apparent that we have to do more to support these caseworkers from the top to ensure that they are effective in their mission.

“The message from this report is not that child welfare reforms in New Jersey are a total failure, but rather a work in progress. I hope that we can continue making improvements to better serve kids in need, and can use the suggestions in this report to strengthen and refocus our efforts towards the goal of an effective and functional child welfare system.

“I will continue to work with the professional staff dedicated to reform, as well as child welfare advocates from around the State to demand accountability and begin to put New Jersey’s child welfare system back on the right track. For the sake of the most vulnerable children in New Jersey, we have to do more.”

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