Report claims ‘total lack of leadership’ at Social Services department

Posted at 2:33 PM, Jun 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-18 18:02:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The latest report about Richmond’s embattled Department of Social Services (DSS) claims the agency is dysfunctional from top to bottom. This is the second review in a series of three requested by the city administration to investigate allegations that DSS was allowing children to remain in abusive or dangerous environments.

The report, compiled by the Virginia Department of Social Service,  claims there is a “total lack of leadership” at the agency and calls on Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall to come up with a corrective plan of action to attempt to fix the problems.

The state is giving Marshall until July 31, 2013 to come up with his best solution.

In reviewing hundreds of case files, state reviewers found at least four cases where medical professionals had determined a child was in irreparable danger or at risk of death.

[Click here for the complete findings: Richmond DSS – Quality Management Report]

The report says that upper management at Richmond’s DSS refused allow the removal of those children even given the medical opinion.

A lack of emergency removals has been at the heart of the DSS allegations from the beginning of the probe with numbers that show a 75 percent decrease in child removals from 2008 to 2012. The state concludes that children have undoubtedly been put in harm’s way by not acting sooner to remove them.

The report also addresses a high turnover rate of DSS employees.

During interviews employees told the state that their work environment was hostile, unappreciative and plagued with favoritism. They claimed they felt undervalued and were often told they were stupid.

[Click here for continuing coverage of Richmond's DSS]

A management survey indicated that leadership was in fact aware morale was low.

At 10 being the highest, managers’ average ranked morale in their department at a 3.5.

Medical professionals from local emergency rooms were also interviewed for the report.

Many had unfavorable views of DSS.

The doctors told the state that they were seeing repeat visits from the same children despite their advice to remove the child from an abusive home.  One doctor claimed she saw the same child 20 times in a one-year period. The doctors claimed DSS did not do proper follow up with children and did not communicate with the hospital about the needs or care of the children that were seen for abuse. They felt their medical advice was often ignored at the expense of the children.

Watch Catie Beck's full report starting on the CBS 6 News at 5.