City responds to scathing social services audit - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

City responds to scathing social services audit

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A scathing report on an investigation of Richmond's Department of Social Services confirms allegations children were in fact being kept in unsafe situations. The Inspector General's Office released twelve pages worth of findings Thursday.

A disturbing picture was painted in the troubling report.

In their presentation to the city's audit committee, investigators didn't mince words.

"The health and safety of the children was compromised," Investigator Andrew Harris said.

It was compromised in a way, which made it difficult for children to thrive and in some instances even survive.

The report details cases where Richmond's kids were left in the hands of caregivers with mental health issues or drug addictions.

Other examples include kids with serious medical issues, who doctors say weren't being properly cared for and others who suffered regular abuse. All of these kids were forced to stay in the dangerous homes, the report says, to keep foster care numbers low.

Stephen Harms was brought in to right the social services ship.

"I want to give you the assurance and this comes straight from the mayor that will not be tolerated," he told committee members.

Harms asserted the hostile work environment for child protective services caseworkers, which was detailed in the findings, is unacceptable. He explained a plan where DSS has removed managers who are not fit for these types of positions and redeployed staff.

"We're saying all hands on deck," he explained. "We need you back directly in child protective services helping to carry some of these cases. We're continuing to advertise and recruit for those positions."

The crackdown is a work in progress. Thursday's release is just the first of three reports requested by the mayor, all of which are expected to confirm the alarming allegations.

The state report is scheduled for release in the beginning of next month. The independent review by the Child Welfare League should come out right after that.

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