In ten years as an elected official in Utah, I have received multiple citizen complaints against the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) from families who felt mistreated. Some of these complaints had more merit than others, DCFS operates in a very sensitive area, in that it may intervene to oversee childrens’ care or even take them out of their home. We are quick to criticize government when it doesn’t act promptly to protect children. On the other hand, one of our most fundamental rights is the right to have, sustain, and raise one’s family.
In 2011, a family contacted me to complain about the way DCFS had treated them. Their accusations against DCFS were serious and, if true, had to be addressed. I passed the information on to Palmer DePaulis, Executive Director of Human Services. Palmer checked on the case and told me it was being handled correctly. However, as additional information emerged, I could not reconcile the widely divergent accounts from DCFS and the family. If the family’s account was true, I would have been irresponsible not to investigate further. Based upon this information and other past criticisms of DCFS, I asked one of our staff auditors for a recommendation. He suggested we assign a team of state-employed auditors, as is often done, to evaluate whether an agency had followed its policies and procedures. This was a neutral, objective way to get to the bottom of the conflicting claims.
The audit focused not on the truth or falsity of the underlying claims against the family, but on what policies and procedures DCFS had in place to protect families, whether DCFS had adhered to its policies and procedures, and whether existing policies and procedures were adequate to protect Utah families.
My motivation was not to tilt the outcome, and this review did not do so. I wanted only to insure the integrity of the process and that DCFS was in compliance with the law. We are legally authorized to conduct such a review. I stand behind my actions.