In an e-mail dated August 25, Interim Director Roque Gerald confessed some bad news to Child and Family Services Agency employees: there were 1,442 cases still in the backlog.
In mid-July, the backlog stood at 1,708 cases, according to agency documents. It has been more than a month since Sharlynn Bobo resigned. Since July 14, the backlog has shrunk by 266 cases—-and this is with the full throttle support of the Fenty Administration. Gerald wrote in his e-mail:
“Today’s message is with a heavy heart but also with no less passion and commitment to support you in every way I can. We remain burdened by our valiant attempts to address the current backlog crisis.”
Gerald goes on to state that the backlog had become enough of an issue (again) that he had to reach out to the mayor’s office. On August 22, he e-mailed City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. Gerald’s communique “led to a face-to-face meeting with the CA and some others on the EOM staff” on the evening of August 22.
“It was a good, productive meeting. Loren Ganoe, Camelia Pierre, Jim Toscano, and I all came away with a better understanding of EOM concerns—and with a sense that they gained a deeper understanding of the challenges CFSA is facing and strategies we’re using to meet them. You must continue to press to safely close backlogged investigations. Meanwhile, I’ll keep oversight authorities informed about our efforts, barriers, and successes,” Gerald wrote.
Gerald noted that “results” from his sit-down at the mayor’s office were “immediate.”
The mayor’s office furiously started cutting down some red tape. Soon, Gerald noted, CFSA would have access electronically to “school placements and attendance.” Why this wasn’t done immediately in the wake of Banita Jacks is a mystery.
Gerald took this new initiative as a silver lining: “The climate is demanding and fast-paced for everyone, not just CFSA. This is the reality, which is also creates opportunities for us. CFSA can use this climate to increase as well as rethink our efforts in pursuing our own long-standing reform strategies, to retain—and even further—our values and commitments to children and families, and to flourish through the process.”
To Gerald, this wasn’t just a silver-lining, but a moment for platitudes and executive speak: “We can’t afford ‘silos’ and bureaucracy anywhere in CFSA,” Gerald went on to write. “We need much more teamwork and regular, widespread information sharing. We must think outside the box to overcome hurdles and resolve problems.”
“Remember: We are CFSA. The agency can’t achieve high levels of performance and accountability unless each of us does,” Gerald wrote.