Philadelphia City Council on Thursday passed a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District) to hold hearings on the results of a startling report about Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, which revealed several under-performing agencies.
CUAs were created to manage child welfare cases and improve services for children under DHS care and their families. This month, DHS released an “Improving Outcomes for Children” scorecard to evaluate the performance and quality of 10 CUAs in several areas including safety, supervision and financial stability. The report found that seven out of 10 CUAs received ‘Ds’ and the rest received ‘Cs,’ with several receiving ‘Fs’ in specific areas.
“I want to ask DHS to go back to the drawing board based on the information they issued to us,” Councilwoman Bass said Thursday. “DHS rated the CUAs on a system of liberty bells versus a traditional grading and scoring system, which would have made it much more apparent that we are in deep trouble with the CUA system that we have in place.”
In a letter to DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa, Councilwoman Bass said: “I also found it troubling that Wordsworth Academy, which was closed last year after reports of a homicide and a decades-long history of sexual assault, was graded a ‘C’ on safety and a ‘B’ on supervision. If a child welfare agency can be rated average or above average despite engaging in gross incompetence, negligence, and misconduct, how can we have faith that these scores are telling the real story?”
Councilwoman Bass, Chair of the Committee on Public Health and Human Services, will hold hearings on the scorecard to examine how CUAs are operated and graded, how agencies with such low scores can continue to do business with the City of Philadelphia and what challenges DHS faces among other things.
“It is imperative that DHS directly address administrative and operational challenges within a framework that demands people and organizations be held accountable,” Bass said.
CUAs were born out of recommendations by a child welfare review panel of experts, who created Improving Outcomes for Children, and were designed to improve the region’s child welfare system by increasing provider accountability and decreasing service costs.
“The bottom line is that if our CUA system was a student it would barely make it to graduation, much less prepared for college or the workforce,” Councilwoman Bass said in the letter. “We need to do better. Much better.”
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Councilwoman Cindy Bass represents the 8th Council District, which includes Germantown, Mt. Airy, Nicetown, Tioga, Chestnut Hill, portions of Logan, and West Oak Lane. She is Chair of Council’s committees on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and Public Health and Human Services.