DHS works to improve child welfare system amidst pandemic

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) says it continues to work to improve the child welfare system in Arkansas by strengthening families, improving foster care for those who need it, and better supporting its workforce.

DCFS outlined its work over the last year in a report released Friday, October 2. 

This is part of an annual report that highlights the areas needing improvement, strengths, and work already done in the child welfare system since DHS launched large-scale reform in 2016.


Keesa Smith, DHS Deputy Director for Youth and Families, said she is encouraged by the report and the work it details. “This report is both timely and relevant,” she noted. “It gives the public a better understanding of how DCFS overcame pandemic-related obstacles and kept a strong focus on families, children, and agency staff.”


“I’m proud of the efforts of my staff and our partners because we’ve been able to move forward with programs and services that will strengthen the families we serve,” said DCFS Director Mischa Martin. “We’ve also found creative ways to forge ahead with new and exciting work while also maintaining our focus on safety and permanency for the children we serve. We all look forward to continuing to work together toward a better system with better outcomes for children in Arkansas.”

According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, improvements over the last four years include:

An increase in the children who are placed with relatives from 23.4 percent in 2016 to 34.7 percent.
An increase in children placed in family-like settings from 77.6 percent in 2016 to 87.5 percent.
An increase in the ratio of foster home beds to children in care from 0.69 in 2016 to 0.75.
A decrease in the average caseload for a frontline worker from 28 cases in 2016 to 20 cases.
A decrease in the number of children in foster care in Arkansas from 5,196 in late 2016 to 4,458 in August 2020, a 14 percent decline.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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