‘It’s appalling’: Audit finds Social Services situation worse than believed

Posted at 12:20 AM, May 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-09 06:45:54-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Late Wednesday afternoon City Council President Charles Samuels got a confirmation he hoped he wouldn't;  the notification came through a city audit report.

"It's appalling and what we need to do now is make sure that does not continue," said Samuels.

Samuels was one of two council members who demanded an investigation in Richmond's Department of Social Services in December of last year.

“This, this report is a big deal,” said Samuels.

The calls for review were prompted by disturbing allegations that children were being left in abusive homes too long to keep foster care numbers low.

Several reviews were set in motion near the start of the new year. The Virginia Department of Social Services, The Child Welfare League of America and the Richmond City Auditor’s Office all set out to investigate.

Now, the findings of the city auditor have come in and will be publicly released on Thursday.

"None of this came as a surprise to me but what it did do was confirm that we were right," said Samuels.

Samuels says the report confirms allegations CBS 6 first reported in December .

DSS employees told us that management at the agency made the emergency removals of children from abusive homes almost impossible.They indicated that it resulted in more abuse, more neglect and for some children more trips to the emergency room in the hands of the same caregiver.

Caseworkers claimed to be overworked because of high turnover in a hostile work environment. And lastly we reported that DSS had nearly 40 missing case files for children discovered during the start of one review.

The auditor's report will suggest that number is actually 10 times larger, that DSS is missing more than 400 files.

"This is really troubling, the citizens and our children deserve better than this," said Councilman Chris Hilbert.

Hilbert also called for DSS review and directed the Mayor's attention to the issue.

Hilbert says the details in the audit, specific stories about the care of abused children warrant every council member's attention. Hilbert believes the children in this report are the weakest and most vulnerable segment of Richmond so this issue simply can't wait.

"It is at the top of the list, it's at the top of my list,"  said Hilbert.

Samuels echoed the same sentiment.

"This is as critical as anything else we are dealing with in the city," said Samuels.

The formal audit findings will be released before the city’s Audit Committee, on Monday at 1 p.m. by the City Auditor.