Nancy Solomon, Managing Editor, New Jersey Public Radio
Nancy Solomon is the Managing Editor of New Jersey Public Radio.
New Jersey's child welfare system continues to get mixed results in its decade-long effort to better protect abused children.
The state’s child protection and foster care system has been under court –ordered federal monitoring for more than 10 years after several children died when they were not removed from their homes or harmed while in foster care.
The federal monitor, Judith Meltzer, filed an update this week that noted some successes and failures. The state has reduced the number of children in foster care by 44 percent over the last eight years. That was one of the primary goals of the reforms.
But Meltzer noted that the state still fails to provide case management to many of the children in its system. The court-appointed monitor found caseworkers only made 55 percent of the visits they are expected to make when a child is first placed in a foster home.
Meltzer also criticized the state budget passed by the Democratically-controlled Legislature that cut $11.5 million from the Department of Children and Families. It’s the first significant budget cut to the agency, Meltzer told the court, since she began monitoring in 2006.
Those budget cuts were not supported by Gov. Chris Christie, or the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, Allison Blake.
The agency is continuing to improve and caseworkers focus more on holding “family team meetings,” Blake told the court.