- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana’s health department is hiring someone to hear and investigate complaints against the Division of Child and Family Services and oversee a panel that will review cases in which a child is critically injured or killed.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services is accepting applications for the position of “complaint and critical incident manager” through Nov. 29.

The new job posting came as the agency is under scrutiny from families, counselors and others who have complained that some of its actions and placement recommendations don’t seem to make sense or follow policy.

Those who advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children argue caseworkers have bullied them and retaliated against them if they disagree with a decision and there doesn’t seem to be a way to undo bad decisions.

Some grandparents and others have held protests outside DCFS offices around the state and some met with Gov. Steve Bullock this summer to air their concerns.

The 2013 Legislature rejected a bill that would have created a board to review cases in which children are critically injured or die to determine whether mistakes were made and how they could be corrected. Bullock included a critical incident review board in the Protect Montana Kids Initiative he announced in September.

The initiative included creating the Protect Montana Kids Commission, which is scheduled to hold its first meeting Nov. 18 in Helena. He charged the commission with helping to improve the child protective system by fully reviewing it, recommending changes in policy or law that might be needed as well as identifying other resources the agency may need.

The “complaint and critical incident manager” will help oversee the critical incident review team, DPHHS spokesman Jon Ebelt said Thursday.

The new person also will be charged with listening to questions and complaints from those involved in the system, explaining the policies, rules and regulations, and working to resolve the complaint, the job posting said.

Attorney Roberta Cross Guns argued that no one person will be able to meet all the tasks listed in the job description.

The posting said the successful applicant must remain sensitive to public perception and keep the agency and the governor’s office informed about “any politically charged issues” and at times work with caseworkers “to rethink case approach to reduce animosity.” The new employee also will be asked to identify any trends in complaints and recommend systemic, policy and practice changes to reverse those trends.

Travel is required to resolve disputes statewide, the listing said.

The new role sounds somewhat similar to the job description for the Office of Child and Family Ombudsman within the Justice Department. The Legislature created the ombudsman’s position in 2013 to field complaints about child protective services, investigate and help resolve them and recommend changes in procedures, practices and programs within the agency.

Families, counselors and others have argued the ombudsman didn’t have enough power and wasn’t truly independent of the Division of Child and Family Services.

In many cases, the complaint manager will work with the ombudsman, Ebelt said.

Ideally, the new manager would be a licensed attorney with child protective services experience, the job listing said. It is a temporary, full-time position with a pay range between $49,400 and $74,000 a year.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide