New Jersey Foster Care Reform Efforts Face Challenges, Report Shows

(New York) — While New Jersey made some progress in the first half of this year, its Department of Children and Families (DCF) is still falling short in several critical areas of child welfare, according to a new report on the sweeping court-ordered reform effort spurred by national advocacy group Children’s Rights.

“While DCF clearly is focused on making its system work better for the children and families who depend on it, some reforms simply are not happening quickly enough,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director for Children’s Rights. “The state must redouble its efforts to ensure that vulnerable kids receive the best attention and services possible.”

Today’s report, issued by an independent monitor appointed by the court to track the state’s reform efforts, does show continued success– such as building a network of available foster homes, dramatically reducing the number of children sent to other states for mental and behavioral health treatment, and improving the overall level of child healthcare being provided by the state.

While these improvements are important, progress in many of the problem areas outlined in previous monitoring reports is far too slow. The monitor notes key areas where DCF must ramp up its efforts, including:

Despite the significant work left to be done, the monitor notes many key areas in which DCF continues to meet or exceed the expectations of the federal court order mandating reform:

“New Jersey’s success in many vital areas of the federal court order shows that the state can become a national leader for child welfare reform,” said Jodi Miller, staff attorney for Children’s Rights. “We remain cautiously optimistic that DCF will resolve the ongoing problems in its system while sustaining the many improvements already made. The children and families of New Jersey deserve nothing less than the state’s very best from here on out.”

Issued by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, today’s monitoring report is the tenth since the 2006 modified settlement of a class action brought against New Jersey by Children’s Rights and co-counsel on behalf of the more than 7,000 children in custody of the state child welfare system. It evaluates the progress made by the state over the six-month period between January 1 and June 30, 2011.

Children’s Rights filed the child welfare reform class action, now known as Charlie and Nadine H. v. Christie, and was joined in 2003 by co-counsel Drinker Biddle & Reath. In 2006, after a previous settlement agreement failed to yield positive results, Children’s Rights reached a new agreement with state officials, mandating sweeping reforms and resulting in DCF’s creation.

The complete monitoring report and more information on Children’s Rights’ campaign to reform New Jersey’s child welfare system can be found at