- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The District’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and public school system don’t know how many foster children receive special education, according to a government audit released yesterday.

The CFSA listed 359 foster children who were receiving special education, but the school system identified 701 foster children as special-education students.

What’s more, the names of only 82 students appeared on both the CFSA’s and the school system’s lists, according to a report by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General.

Auditors had sought to determine whether foster children were getting the required amount of special education during the 2004-05 school year. They concluded that shoddy record keeping by the CFSA and the school system made the task nearly impossible.

“The unreliability of CFSA’s special education records … affected our ability to fully accomplish our audit objective of accounting for children under CFSA’s custody who received special education services,” the auditors said in the report.

An upcoming inspector general report is expected to focus on whether the CFSA can account for all the foster children in its custody.

The auditors also noted that they “could not rely on or use records supplied” by the school system.

Among other findings of the report released by D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, the auditors said the school system had included on its list several foster children who no longer were wards of the city and one who had died years earlier.

In addition, the inspector general sent 57 letters to residential-treatment facilities where the school system said students were receiving services. In 19 cases, children were not residing at the facilities, according to the audit.

Overall, more than 10,000 students receive special-education services at a cost of more than $100 million in the District, according to city records.

The audit concluded that school system and CFSA officials failed to execute written contracts for special-education services provided to foster children.

“CFSA and [the school system] did not effectively carry out their joint responsibility of accounting for children under CFSA’s custody who were in special education programs,” the auditors said.

The school system failed to maintain accurate information about CFSA children or where they were schooled, the audit reported.

The CFSA has failed to prepare a required annual report about the number of foster children in its care every year since a city law requiring the document went into effect in 2001.

“CFSA failed to comply with this legal reporting requirement for a number of reasons, including an apparent lack of regard for complying with District law,” the audit stated.

Only after the Office of the Inspector General sought the document did the CFSA provide a copy of its 2005 report.

Uma S. Ahluwalia, CFSA’s interim director, who earns $122,117 a year, told Mr. Willoughby in a letter last month that her agency agreed with most of his findings and “is eager to use them to refocus its ongoing work with DC public schools.”

The CFSA’s letter also said the agency is improving its data monitoring and accounting.

Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, who earns $250,000 a year, disagreed with the inspector general’s finding that the public school system and the CFSA share a “joint responsibility” in accounting for foster children.

“Inaccurate data from CFSA impacts the ability of [the school system] to efficiently complete annual enrollment and residency verification,” said Mr. Janey in a letter to Mr. Willoughby last month.

The superintendent acknowledged that the school system has had problems in collecting and maintaining accurate data about foster children receiving special education, but he said more staff will be hired to “remedy its data-collection process.”

He also said the school system plans to revise its agreement with the CFSA to share enrollment and contract information.

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