DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

   <<< Return to OPP Table of Contents
Handbook 20: Special Information
20-5 DFCS Complaint Policy and Procedures

 

Special Information
20-5  DFCS Complaint Policy and Procedures
Reference Points
Overview
DFCS Policy
Definition of a Complaint
Steps for Reporting Complaints of Discrimination
Steps for Reporting Complaints other than Discrimination
Complaints Lodged on Behalf of the Complainant by the Ombuds
Steps for the DFCS Supervisor of Specialized Services
Steps for the Social Services Program Manager
Disclosure of Personnel Actions
Best Practices Committee
Ombudsperson Guidelines
Form for Parents to Register a Complaint
Contact
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: TBA
Last Updated: 2/21/2013
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
MS Word Complaint Form (SCZ 137A)
MS Word Complaint Tracking Form (SCZ 137B)
MS Word Who to Contact


Overview   The Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) receives complaints from different people and organizations, such as:
  • Children, parents and relatives
  • DFCS clients via the Client Comment Line (408) 755-7770
  • DFCS staff
  • Representatives of the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds
  • Non-DFCS staff within the Social Services Agency (SSA)
  • Board of Supervisors
  • Office of the Director, SSA
  • Office of the Director, DFCS
  • Attorneys
  • Community groups and organizations
  • State Ombudsperson
  • California Department of Social Services
  • Other state agencies other state agencies
  • Federal agencies
  • Federal elected officials

Whenever possible, clients' concerns should be addressed at the social worker and supervisor level and, if necessary, elevated to the Social Services Program Manager (SSPM). Concerns by an individual or organization that cannot be resolved at the SSPM level are investigated and tracked by the DFCS Administrative Support Bureau staff with oversight by the DFCS Director and the Office of the Ombudsperson.  If a concern requires urgent attention, DFCS Administration may become directly involved.

Issues and trends from the complaint tracking data are identified by the Social Services Agency Best Practices Committee.  Recommendations are made by the Committee for changes in practices, policies, or procedures.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
DFCS Policy  
  • It is the policy of the Social Services Agency and the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) that all complaints related to services provided by DFCS are thoroughly addressed and each complainant is provided a timely responses to his or her concern.  It is also DFCS policy that improvements to DFCS services and processes should be identified from analysis of complaints by DFCS and community stakeholders in order to better respond to the needs of our clients.


  • Further, California State Department of Social Services prohibits  county welfare departments from discriminating against clients on the basis of:
Race Sex
Color Sexual orientation
National origin Marital status
Age Disability
Religion Domestic partnership
Political affiliation Ethnic group identity


    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Definition of a Complaint  

A complaint is an allegation of:

  • An inappropriate action by the DFCS staff.

  • Misconduct by a DFCS employee or other person providing services to DFCS clients.
    • The DFCS Director is immediately notified of any allegation of misconduct by a DFCS employee.
    • Misconduct complaints are handled according to established County personnel practices.

  • Ineffective communication


  • Inappropriate or incorrect services

  • Denial of benefits or services

  • Individual or separate treatment in any matter related to an individual's receipt of any benefits or services

  • Restriction of a individual in any way in the enjoyment of any advantage or privilege enjoyed by others

  • Treatment of an individual that is different from others, whether he/she satisfies any admission, enrollment, eligibility, or other requirement or condition which individuals must meet in order to be provided any benefit or service

  • Denial of opportunity to an individual to participate in any program or activity through the provision of services or otherwise afford the individual an opportunity to do which is different from that afforded others under the program activity

  • Use of criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of defeating or impairing the objectives of a program or activity

 

Complainants are encouraged to resolve their issues and concerns with the social worker and social work supervisor.  However, a person can make a complaint without trying to resolve the matter at the social worker or supervisor level.

Concerns resolved at the Social Services Program Manager (SSPM) level or below are not considered complaints.  For example, a disagreement related to case planning that is resolved by the social worker and/or supervisor is not a complaint addressed by the following process. 


NOTE: Any individual who believes that his or her civil rights have been violated should be referred to file a charge of discrimination with the Social Services Agency's Equal Opportunity Civil Rights Office.  The complaint procedures below are not designed to respond to an individual who is alleging discrimination.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Steps for Reporting Complaints of Discrimination  

Any individual who believes that his or her civil rights have been violated should be referred to file a charge of discrimination with the Social Services Agency’s Equal Opportunity Civil Rights Office. If a DFCS staff has a client who alleges that they have been discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, age, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, domestic partnership, or ethnic group identification, the social worker refers the client to:

SSA Civil Rights Coordinator

Lisa Holmes

Tel: (408) 755-7299

 

Click the following link to review Santa Clara County Social Services Agency's procedures for investigating client complaints of discrimination procedure/CDSS.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Steps for Reporting Complaints  

When a person presents a complaint to the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS), the DFCS staff person who receives the complaint:

  • Informs the complainant:

    • Of the dispute resolution services available from the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds and provides contact information for the Ombudsperson:
      • Email: OMBUDS@ohr.sccgov.org
      • Telephone: (408) 792-2313
     
    • That he or she may contact the social worker and/or the social work supervisor to try to resolve the matter.
  • Asks the complainant if he or she plans to contact the Ombudsperson or the social worker and/or social work supervisor.

 

 

If the complainant chooses.. then the SSA/DFCS staff person..
to pursue resolution of the complaint through the Ombudsperson

takes no further action.

not to contact the Ombudsperson

refers the complainant to the supervisor of Specialized Services, Administrative Support Bureau.

Tel: (408)501-6848

The supervisor of Specialized Services completes the Complaint Form (SCZ 137A).

wants to file a complaint, even if the person intends to contact the social worker and/or social work supervisor

refers the complainant to the supervisor of Specialized Services, Administrative Support Bureau.

Tel: (408)501-6848 

The supervisor of Specialized Services completes the Complaint Form (SCZ 137A).

 

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Complaints Lodged on Behalf of the Complainant by the Ombuds  

A representative of the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds may conduct an independent investigation of a complaint.  DFCS staff fully cooperate with inquiries and investigations conducted by the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds.

If the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds investigation of the complainant’s allegations and concerns result in the Ombuds filing a formal complaint with DFCS on behalf of the complainant, the representative of the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds notifies the Supervisor of Specialized Services of the pending investigation, including the allegation(s) of the complainant and DFCS staff involved in the complaint.

 

The Supervisor of Specialized Services completes and processes a SCZ 137A form based on information provided by the Ombuds’ representative.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Steps for DFCS Supervisor of Specialized Services  

Upon receiving a complaint via the SCZ137A, the Supervisor of Specialized Services in the DFCS Administrative Support Bureau:

  • Immediately hand delivers a copy of the SCZ137A to the Social Services program manager (SSPM) responsible for the case indicated in the complaint.
  • Completes Part I of the Complaint Tracking Form (SCZ137B).
  • If the complaint was forwarded for action by the Office of the SSA Director, sends a copy of the SCZ 137A to the SSA Program Manager of the Quality Improvement and Enhancement Team (QIET) and the Agency Director's Executive Assistant  
  • If the original complaint was forwarded to the supervisor of Specialized Services by the Office of the SSA Director, sends copies of the SSPM's Complaint Investigation Outcome Memorandum to the SSA Program Manager of the Quality Improvement and Enhancement Team (QIET) and the Agency Director's Executive Assistant.


  • After receipt of the DFCS Director's written decision, completes Part II of the DFCS Tracking Form B to log in the conclusion of the complaint.




Further responsibilities of the Supervisor of Specialized Services includes:

  • Preparing and submitting a weekly report to the DFCS Director and Administrative Support SSPM summarizing:
    • The current status of each complaint.

    • The outcome of all completed and pending complaint investigations.
    • Non-identifying examples of frequently occurring complaints and other less frequently occurring complaints concerning issues with a potentially significant impact on DFCS practices, policies, and procedures.
    • Emerging issues and trends that may require policy, procedure, or practice changes or other Department-wide action.
  • Preparing and submitting a quarterly report to the DFCS Director and the Best Practices Committee summarizing the types of complaints received.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   

Steps for

the SSPM

 

Upon receiving a Complaint Form (SCZ 137A), the Social Services Program Manager:

  • Reviews the SCZ137A.
  • Conducts an independent, thorough, and objective investigation of the complaint.
    • Fact finding minimally includes:
      • Direct contact with the complainant within one business day of receiving the SCZ137A, whenever possible, to ascertain the complainant's allegations and concerns.
          • Telephone contact is permissible if the complainant does not reside in Santa Clara or an adjacent county.
          • The SSPM should have from open and ongoing communication with all parties to understanding the complaint and circumstances surrounding the complaint.
      • Direct contact with the social worker, social work supervisor, and any other party who might provide information to better understand the circumstances surrounding the complainant's allegations and concerns.
       
      • Direct contact with the representative of the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds if the complaint originated with the Office.
       
      • Review of case records.

      • Consideration of all applicable Federal, State and County service delivery requirements and best practices to implement those requirements.
         
  • Within 5 business days of receiving the SCZ137A, concludes the investigation.

    • If additional time is needed to complete the investigation, the SSPM notifies the complainant, social worker, social work supervisor, supervisor of Specialized Services, and DFCS Director of the delay, and provides a date by which the investigation will be completed not to exceed 10 business days from the date the SCZ was provided to the SSPM.
    • If the complaint originated from the Juvenile Office of the Ombuds, the Ombudsperson assigned is additionally informed verbally and in writing of the delay and the anticipated date of completion.
  • Completes a memorandum to be titled Complaint Investigation Outcome Memorandum, with the following information:
    • The complainant's allegations and concerns.
    • Additional issues and concerns that came to light as a result of the investigation.
    • Relevant information gained from interviews and review of records.
    • Reference to applicable federal, state, and county service delivery requirements and best practices to implement those requirements.
    • Findings relevant to the complainant's allegations and concerns.
    • Conclusions reached.
    • Actions taken, if any, to address the complainants's allegations and concerns.
    • Details how the plans to communicate the findings and conclusions of the investigation and actions taken, if any, to the complainant.
    • If necessary, documentation such as evaluations, court reports, court orders, etc.
      • This documentation is only provided with the memorandum submitted to the DFCS Director and Deputy Director.

  • Immediately submits the Complaint Investigation Outcome Memorandum to the DFCS Director, with a copy to the supervisor of the Specialized Services Unit.


  • Following the DFCS Director's review and acceptance of the Complaint Investigation Outcome Memorandum, discusses the findings and conclusions of the investigation and actions taken, if any, with the complainant, the social worker, and the social work supervisor.


  • If the complaint originated from the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds, discusses the findings and conclusions of the investigation and actions taken, if any.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Disclosure of Personnel Actions   Verbal or written accounts of any personnel disciplinary action being contemplated, under investigation, or otherwise pending is not to be disclosed to any unauthorized person, including, but not limited to, the complainant, representative of the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds, or the Best Practices Committee.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Best Practices Committee  

The Best Practices Committee meets quarterly and:

  • Considers quarterly reports on complaints from the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds and the supervisor of the Specialized Services Unit
  • Discusses policy, procedure, and practice issues.
  • May review a complaint in more detail.
    • Any identifying information about persons involved in the complaint is withheld from the Committee.

The Best Practice Committee does not consider any DFCS personnel matters.

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Ombudsperson Guidelines  

Upon receiving a complaint, the Ombudsperson:

  • Logs in complaints at intake and at complaint outcome.
  • Immediately reports complaints concerning personnel issues to the DFCS Director.
  • Refers complaints to the appropriate DFCS supervisor or manager if the complainant has not pursued this administrative redress.
  • Within five (5) days of receiving the complaint:
    • Sends a copy of the complaint to the Supervisor of Specialized Services in the Administrative Support Bureau for tracking purposes.
    • Provides the SSPM, supervisor, and social worker who are associated with the complaint written:
      • Notification that a complaint has been filed and
      • Information about the allegations and nature of the complaint.
  • Completes fact-finding relating to the complaint within 45 days. 
    • The complainant is notified of the reason for any fact-finding that requires more than 30 days.
  • Meets monthly with the DFCS Director to update the Director regarding the status of complaints and DFCS action to address outstanding issues.
  • Notifies complainants of the outcome of the complaint investigation, including DFCS determination that specific action is or is not required.
  • Notifies the DFCS Administration Support Bureau Supervisor of Specialized Services of the outcome of the complaint for tracking purposes.
  • Writes non-identifying examples of types of frequently occurring complaints, and other less frequently occurring complaints concerning issues with a potentially significant impact on DFCS practices, policies and procedures for verbatim inclusion in the quarterly report prepared by the supervisor for Specialized Services to the Best Practice Committee.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Form for Parents to Register a Complaint   The Who to Contact handout is given to parents who attend Parent Orientation classes.  The form describes the preferred steps for a parent to take to resolve a concern: working with the social worker and, if necessary, the supervisor and program manager.  The handout also advises parents that they have the option of calling the Juvenile Welfare Office of the Ombuds or the supervisor of DFCS Specialized Services at any time.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Contact  

Meheret Sellassie, Social Work Supervisor

Specialized Services

Tel: (408)501-6848

Mehert.Sellassie@ssa.sccgov.org

    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
   
Other References  
MS Word Agency Memorandum 09-42 : Revised DFCS Complaint Policy and Procedures
MS Word Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children's Services Best Practices Protocol
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page