Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions


Office of Children's Services foster care programs
pass federal eligibility review
Feds: "Remarkable results" - just 1 technical error in 80 cases reviewed.


September 24, 2003
Wednesday - 1:15 am

About 40 Office of Children's Services (OCS) staff, assembled last Thursday in the Juneau Office conference room and via teleconference, greeted results of a recent federal review with applause. OCS had just concluded a 4-day Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Review which focuses on whether a child meets statutory eligibility requirements for foster care maintenance payments. "We read 80 cases and found one error, and these are wonderful, remarkable results,"said Carol Overbeck, Foster Care Specialist with the Administration for Children & Families in the US Dept. of Health & Human Services. In the Title IV-E review protocols, a state can have up to 8 cases fail to meet standards before secondary reviews are required.

"These are very positive results," Joel Gilbertson, H&SS Commissioner said. "We are very pleased and I am extremely proud of OCS staff who worked hard to prepare for this important and rigorous review." Marcia Kennai, OCS Deputy Commissioner, said that several findings pinpoint ways that OCS can increase federal payments for foster care services that the State provides. "We have an ambitious agenda to strengthen our role in Alaska's foster care system and make things better for Alaska's children and foster families," she said. "But speaking for my staff and this entire Office, we're going to take a moment to celebrate the good reviews and the good news."

Other Title IV-E review findings:

  • The State is missing out on some federal fund reimbursements due to legal delays. The reviewers recommended continuing to work with the Courts and the Court Improvement Project to benefit clients and to enable the state to maximize federal reimbursement funds for those services.
  • No cases failed in the review because of financial eligibility requirements. In the recent reorganization of OCS, certain eligibility staff members were moved from Public Assistance to OCS, and that facilitates timely handling of cases. Fine tuning case documentation helps one eligibility worker pick up another worker's case, and keeps the case moving forward.
  • All 80 cases met the criminal check and safety requirements. "None of Alaska's cases failed in this area, and that is not typical in review of other states," Overbeck said.
    One case failed because the facility did not meet the federal requirement for full licensing, although the facility met State requirements.
  • The IV-E review recommended the State to consider more flexible licensing standards used effectively by other states. Because of the shortage of foster families in Alaska, the reviewers noted that licensing staff felt some pressure to "overload" families with more foster children. However, reviewers credited the licensing staff for "holding the line and not overloading" a family.
  • The reviewers noted positively that the eligibility system had been restructured, taking a two-step process to a one-step eligibility process. "You have a really trained cadre of specialists here," Overbeck said. "For these folks to have just gone through a reorganization, and to be doing such a good job, is really remarkable." The review also called OCS' eligibility manual "one of the best we have seen. "We really think its tops," Overbeck said.

"This is a learning process for all of us," Kennai said. "We continue to be a learning organization, this is our vision, and we will continue to work to secure all the funding we are eligible for." Kennai congratulated and thanked all OCS staff who worked on the review.

"It is a top priority of this administration to maximize federal funding for this Department to offset state General Funds," Kennai said. "We welcome the recommendations of this review that help us achieve that goal."



Source of News Release:

Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services
Web Site


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