District Mayor Anthony A. Williams is considering a range of changes in the city's malfunctioning child welfare system, including a program in which D.C. government would try to reduce its growing number of foster children by aggressively encouraging adoption.
The recommendations by top aides to the mayor are aimed at relieving some of the stress on the city's child welfare system, which has been plagued by disorganization, a shortage of social workers and inconsistent payments to foster parents and day-care providers.
The report--requested by Williams (D) after 100 parents recently threatened to return their D.C. foster children because they had not been paid by the Child and Family Services agency--also proposes that the city temporarily license additional social workers to help ease the caseloads of Child and Family Services counselors. Social workers with the agency often are so overwhelmed that troubled children needing counseling go long periods without it.
The report also recommends that at least 10 more lawyers be hired to handle adoption cases, that a new system of tracking children be used to ensure that they are getting the services they need and that their time in foster care is as short as possible.
"The time that children stay in the District's child welfare system and the system's instability have caused far too many of our children to have negative experiences as they journey from infancy to young adulthood in a system that, at best, is designed for temporary placement," said the report, prepared by Williams aides Carolyn N. Graham and Kennedy S. Khabo.
Abdusalam Omer, the mayor's chief of staff, said Williams "is reviewing the recommendations in the report. [It] begins to address many of the problems identified by foster-care families . . . and identifies ways this government can support children in foster care."
In September, 3,334 D.C. children were in the foster-care system. The number of children in the system continues to increase, even though Child and Family Services has significantly increased the number of children placed with adoptive families in the past year.
The mayor's role in the child welfare system is limited because the system is in court-ordered receivership, the result of a class-action suit in which a judge ruled that the city was neglecting its most vulnerable children.
But in recent weeks, foster parents have demanded that Williams take a firmer hand in trying to resolve the system's problems.
Some foster parents say part of the problem is the agency's court-appointed receiver, Ernestine F. Jones. In August, nearly two months before the end of the budget year, the agency ran out of money, forcing the mayor's office to find the cash to keep it going and help it secure more federal Medicaid funds.
An audit by D.C. officials indicated that while some parents and day-care providers had not been paid, others appeared to have been paid two or three times what they were owed. Jones blamed an old computer system that has been replaced.
CAPTION: Mayor Anthony A. Williams is reviewing proposals to improve the city's child welfare system, which is under the control of a court-appointed receiver.