BOSTON – In an audit of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) released today, the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) identified a need for DYS to take measures to more effectively manage its 51B report resolution process.
A 51B is an investigation into allegations of abuse and/or neglect that are contained in a 51A report, which requires mandated reporters to immediately report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) suspected abuse and/or neglect of a child under the age of 18. DYS is the Commonwealth’s juvenile justice agency, which provides educational, psychological, and health services to juvenile offenders.
The audit, which reviewed the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019, identified that DYS does not have any formal disciplinary guidelines that establish what measures its staff should take to effectively address supported allegations of neglect and/or abuse, and noted that these guidelines should address measures beyond the suspension or termination of the perpetrator’s employment that could be effective in preventing reoccurrences.
The audit also recommended that DYS implement monitoring controls in the area of a maximum caseworker caseload threshold to ensure that caseworkers can meet all of their responsibilities for supervising youth. During the audit process, DYS informed auditors that 12 to 15 cases per caseworker was a reasonable caseload. In its review, the audit found that 28 of the 93 caseworkers who worked at DYS during the audit period were at times assigned numbers of cases that exceeded the maximum of 15 cases. One of the 28 caseworkers was assigned to many as 33 cases at one time during the audit period.
“It is important that the issues identified in our audit are addressed swiftly by DYS because of the direct consequences on a young person’s life,” said Auditor Bump. “Between monitoring a reasonable caseload for its caseworkers, to ensuring that reports of neglect or abuse are effectively addressed to minimize future occurrences, DYS has an opportunity to make changes to its practices which can serve to improve community safety.”
Additionally, the audit found that DYS did not always revoke terminated employees’ user access to its case management system immediately after termination, or within 24 business hours. Specifically, 311 terminated users did not have their user access revoked within a timely manner. The time it took to revoke access ranged from three to 2,341 business days after their
termination dates, which means personal information could have been vulnerable to unauthorized access.
The audit recommended that DYS establish written policies and procedures for assigning, managing, and monitoring caseworker caseloads, and amend its policies and procedures to require its HR Department to notify its IT Department immediately when an employee has been terminated. Based on its response, DYS is taking actions on the latter recommendation.