NBC12 Investigates: DSS and city leaders answer questions about - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

NBC12 Investigates: DSS and city leaders answer questions about scathing audit

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Richmond city leaders are answering questions about why children are still being left in dangerous situations after a new, scathing report on the Richmond Department of Social Services.

They are sounding off with some on the defense and others wondering how we are still seeing the same problems brought to light a year ago. The words "revolting" and "disgusting" have been used to describe a report that shows Richmond's kids are still in danger.

City Council President Charles Samuels didn't mince words as he examined the new report.

"It is clear that nothing has really changed," he said. "In fact, it almost seems like it is getting worse."

That's a fate, he believes, the city can't afford when it comes to this particular agency.

"Children should never be placed in that position by the people that are supposed to be protecting them," Samuels explained. "It is heartbreaking to me that this would be allowed to continue."

The new investigation says despite a leadership change, problems at social services have not changed. According to the audit, children are paying the price with cases being closed and complaints never making it to those new leaders.

We asked Interim Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services Steven Harms why he didn't make sure he was being informed about what was going on, if he was brought in to clean up the agency.

"We're trying to create a constructive atmosphere," Harms explained. "If anybody has a problem, work through the chain of command. If you have an immediate problem, take it to your supervisor."

Instead, those accusations were brought to the auditor's office.

"The administration should have known about this," Samuels added. "The fact that the workers did not feel comfortable going above those who were impeding their ability to maintain the safety of children is disgusting."

Now, Harms says the state will provide senior child protective services workers to assess the department resources, staff strengths and weaknesses and how that's affecting high risk cases.

NBC12 asked Harms if some of the things he is now suggesting should already be in place, given the situation he was brought in to fix.

"We were putting things in place to try to address this and it's obvious more work needs to be done," Harms responded.

He says the state will also help Richmond identify CPS workers from other localities who have recently retired and try to get them working in the city. He believes that should help the situation.

Since July of last year, four infants from families already in the system have died.  Harms told us they are looking into whether some of the failures shown in this audit contributed to those situations.

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