Officials Say Social Services Database Problems Being Corrected


ANNAPOLIS (Oct. 22, 2008)—A statewide comprehensive database of foster children and adoption cases included only 35 percent of the data it was supposed to have, according to an audit released earlier this month for the Department of Human Resources. Since last year, that figure has risen to 90 percent.

"There have been remarkable changes," said Department of Human Resources Secretary Brenda Donald.

The database, implemented in order to provide comprehensive data to the Social Services Administration, had cost the state and federal government about $67.6 million through June 2007.

Earlier this month, the Department of Legislative Services released audits for the Social Services Administration and the Child Support Enforcement Administration, both of which are overseen by the Department of Human Resources. The audit for the Social Services Administration was for the period between May 3, 2004, and June 30, 2007.

At a Joint Audit Committee meeting Tuesday, representatives for the Department of Human Resources said they take full responsibility for findings in the audits, but that significant improvements have been made.

"There was nothing the auditors focused on that we're not working on," Donald said.

There were nine findings released in the audit, most notably that the Social Services Administration did not successfully implement components of the Children's Electronic Social Services Information Exchange system (CHESSIE), which was installed between February 2006 and January 2007.

Because the Social Services Administration did not initially use the database fully, there was incorrect information recorded. Children who were no longer in foster care were still in the database and the wrong birth date and social security number were listed for children.

Many of the deficiencies within the Social Services Administration were due to problems in implementing the database, said Timothy Brooks, audit manager for the Office of Legislative Audits.

The database has now been fully embraced, said Brian Wilbon, deputy secretary for operations for the Department of Human Resources. All 24 of the local social service departments use the fully operational database.

"I think part of the challenge was that it had been talked about for years, and I don't think people were ready for it," Wilbon said. "I don't think that there was the same level of focus and accountability as it is with this administration."

Donald said that most of the audit's findings predate her administration but that hers is responsible for fixing the problems.

As a way to fully implement the database, Donald said that the Department of Human Resources has spent time updating and correcting records.

"We've done an awful lot of work," Donald said.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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