STATE OF WISCONSIN
A review of the Wisconsin Adoption and Foster Care Review and Reporting System (AFCARS) program will be conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the week of July 10, 2006. The federal review will examine the collection of foster care placement and adoption finalization data to ensure compliance with Federal requirements and evaluate how data is used for program management at the state level. This memo explains the AFCARS review process, assistance needed by local agencies, and how local agencies will be involved if their cases are included in the review.
Federal Review Process
States are required by Federal law and regulation to collect data on children in foster care and those who have been adopted through the involvement of the State child welfare agency. States that fail to meet any of the standards set forth in 45 CFR 1355.40(a-d) are considered not to be in substantial compliance with the requirements of the Title IV-E State Plan, and may be subject to penalties.
The AFCARS Assessment Review (AAR) is conducted by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Children's Bureau, the ACF Office of Information Services (OIS), and the ACF Regional Offices. These agencies incorporate an understanding of a State's child welfare policies and practices with an analysis of the information system designed to collect information and the technical documentation used to extract and report the AFCARS data to ACF.
Impact on Local Agencies
A key component of the federal review will be the examination of case files. A sample of 80 county foster care records and 30 adoption records will be pulled for the AFCARS reporting period under review. The AFCARS data submitted to ACF on each record is compared to information found in the paper case file during the onsite review. ACF will identify the files needed several months prior to the review. On June 1, 2006, local agencies with cases included in the sample, will be notified by letter of specific cases selected for the review. In addition, DCFS may request provider files for specific cases. DCFS will request that all files be sent to the Madison central office by June 30, 2006 for use by the review team. Case files will be returned to local agencies the week of July 17, 2006. If local agencies have case activity requiring the use of files during the review period, arrangements can be made to minimize the inconvenience for agencies.
The July 2006 review will be based on the May 2006 submission of AFCARS data to the ACF. It is important that the file submitted by DCFS be as clean as possible, in preparation for the on-site review. As such, County agencies may be contacted by OPEP, WiSACWIS or Area Administration staff prior to the May submission with request for data cleanup pertaining to specific AFCARS data elements. DCFS will be using the AFCARS Exception Reports to identify counties with a high proportion of errors.
As a general reminder, the AFCARS Exception Report is available through eWReports (cm2102). The cm2102 report displays the current AFCARS Errors for a county. The report also breaks out the errors by errors in closed cases and errors in open cases. For each error, the report displays the child, case, primary worker, and error description. DCFS encourages all counties to routinely review the report for updates on AFCARS errors. In addition, the use of the Placement History Correction Window will allow for clean-up of elements that previously could not be fixed (elements 18-24). If necessary, training is available to counties to use this feature.
The ACF will issue a final report within 90 business days after completion of on-site review. DCFS will submit its AFCARS Improvement Plan (AIP) within 30 days of receipt of final report. Counties may be asked to assist in clean up efforts related to the AIP.
The assistance of local agencies will be critical in helping the state do as well as possible on the review.