Scathing audit finds waste at Richmond Social Services

RICHMOND, VE (WWBT) - A scathing new audit of Richmond's foster care program and Social Services finds children could have been endangered and hundreds of thousand of dollars were wasted.

The city auditor says there was no oversight for several years; money was wasted and the system could easily have been abused. That's on top of possibly dangerous situations for some of the foster children. But the mayor's office says they've made changes to this agency that have been in the works long before the audit was released.

The new audit by inspector general Umesh Dalal, finds "weak record keeping" a "lack of oversight" and "inadequate controls".

The audit is of the agency's 2008 and 2009 budgets totaling $74-million. In all the auditor discovered Richmond social services owed $4.2 million to state and federal agencies and had overpaid vendors and clients, essentially wasting. at least $78,000.

According to the audit, child safety was also not being addressed. In 40% of cases reviewed by the auditor, children were placed in homes before the background check was completed on the foster family. And in 35% of cases there was no documentation to prove the foster homes were visited by a welfare agent. one child had been placed in a home where a foster parent had been convicted of a felony. Another teenage girl was placed in a home where a parent faced complaints of inappropriately touching children. They complaints were considered "unfounded", but the child was never removed.

"A lot of this information was the way things were happening in 2007, 2008 and early 09." The mayor's press secretary Tammy Hawley says it was Dwight Jones who pointed out major problems within the agency soon after taking office. She says he filled two key and long-vacant leadership positions including hiring a director. "We asked both of those leaders of that department and that agency to get this department in order, that this record keeping was unacceptable."

The auditor made several recommendations for change. Many have been implemented or are scheduled to be put in place over the next year and a half.

During the years of mismanagement cited by the auditor, Social Services was involved with helping more than 1500 local children.

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