- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - The head of the Division of Child and Family Services will leave the agency in April to return to practicing law as a committee appointed by the governor prepares to make recommendations for changes in agency policy and state law.

The move by Sarah Corbally came while the agency is under fire by some families and mental health counselors over complaints that it was not doing enough to protect abused and neglected children.

The agency, a division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, has seen a high rate of turnover among caseworkers and has difficulty filling those jobs. The state currently lists 17 openings for child protection specialists, including seven in Missoula and four in Kalispell.

Counselors and the families of some children involved with DCFS have picketed DCFS offices around the state. Several met with Gov. Steve Bullock last July, asking for wholesale changes within the agency. They complained that they were disrespected by caseworkers, the agency ignored the recommendations of some counselors, and workers seemed to lack training.

Bullock created the Protect Montana Kids Commission in September to study the agency and make recommendations to align the system with national standards and best practices in the field of child welfare.



An audit released in November found that the agency needed to strengthen its supervision, better document its decisions and complete more investigations within the time frame required by law. The audit focused on how the child abuse hotline handled calls.

Corbally has long said the division needs more money to hire more caseworkers and a new computer system to improve efficiency.

DPHHS Director Richard Opper called Corbally’s resignation a loss for the agency, the Flathead Beacon (https://bit.ly/1OLBl85) reported.

“No one works harder or is more passionate about protecting Montana’s children from abuse and neglect than Sarah,” Opper said in a statement.

Corbally said her resignation has nothing to do with the complaints against the agency, which she says is doing important work. She said the pressure and turmoil are to be expected in her current post.

“Honestly, when I took this job and I left being a lawyer, I decided I would probably do it for five to seven years. It’s been six years, and I’m really ready to go back to law,” Corbally said.

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Information from: Flathead Beacon, https://www.flatheadbeacon.com

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