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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Social Services
State Board of Social Services
State Response When A Local Department of Social Services Fails To Provide Services [Under Development] [22 VAC 40 ‑ 677]
Action Establish Regulation for State Oversight of Local Departments of Social Services
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 3/19/2021
Next Comment     Back to List of Comments
2/3/21  8:44 pm
Commenter: Lisa Ann Peacock

22 VAC40-677

This proposed regulation provides the Commissioner of DSS with the regulatory authority to  direct and oversee the provision of public assistance and social services in the local department in the event the local department fails, refuses or is unable to provide such services.  The Commissioner already has the authority under 63.2-904.1 to intervene with the local agency if it fails to provide foster care services in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations.  There is language under 63.2-904.1 that addresses intervention by the DSS Commissioner, corrective action plan requirements, and the assumption of temporary control for foster care that also addresses the management of funds when this situation occurs.  When adding public assistance and social services to the programs the Commissioner shall intervene with should at least mirror the language of 63.2-904.1.  The current proposed regulatory language of 22 VAC40-677-10 use vague terms like what constitutes failure, refusal, or inability to provide services,  what constitutes "appropriate proceedings" and "transition plan".  The text does not address how an intervention would initially occur or how the local board would be notified of its failure, given an opportunity to reply to concerns, or take corrective action before the Commissioner would take control of the local agency.  The text does not address local agency metrics that would be the trigger to implement an intervention.  The local agency dashboards have been problematic and are often corrected due to errors.  The biggest concern is the vagueness of the financial impact or costs associated with such action in terms of local staffing, state staffing, and possibly hiring contractors or paying overtime to staff on loan from another local agency.

It is important to define the terms.  There is a difference between failing to provide and not having the ability to provide services.  In terms of the inability to provide services, local agencies struggle (due to low pay, long hours, stress, demands on work/home life balance, etc) to attract, maintain, and retain qualified staff.  Turnover rates, competition for staff with other local agencies who have salaries supplemented at a higher rate, year long learning curves, long term staff constantly training new trainees, etc. are challenges to local agencies.  We work with some of the most vulnerable Virginia citizens but are woefully and inadequately underfunded.  The process of determining when the Commissioner shall take control of a local agency should be a fair one, to include a list of goals for the local agency, a clear path to correct the problem, periodic performance reviews and the local agencies should be afforded due process beginning with a clearly written explanation as to why there are concerns and then the local agency should be given the opportunity to respond through various levels or steps that would lead to resolution of the issue and avoid a "hostile takeover" of a local agency.  An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.  Local agencies should clearly know they are on a watch list for xx reasons before being notified by the Commissioner of the need to take control of the agency.   The Commissioner should only take control of an agency when all else fails or the local agency is not making any attempts to comply.  Thank you for the opportunity to comment.  Lisa Peacock, Director of Culpeper Human Services

CommentID: 96440