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A year after major shakeups in the Moab office of the Division of Child and Family Services, a departmental review has found "substantial progress" toward fixing problems. But the need for improvement continues.

Moab office problems first became public after the attorney hired to represent children in child-protection cases complained about the office to Human Services officials. He said he was not being given court-ordered documents and included a lengthy list of other complaints about child-protection practices. Investigation of his allegations led to several critical reviews by the Department of Human Services, the firing of two key employees and reassignment of others."I did not understand the depth of dysfunction of the Moab office," Mary Noonan, director of Child and Family Services, last summer told the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel.

Now division staff are starting the new year on a higher note, according to the newest review, released this week. Department of Human Services director Robin Arnold-Williams, a deputy director, a clinical consultant and an auditor from the Bureau of Internal Review and Audit (which authored some of the critical reports) went to Moab to see where things stand "a year later."

Caseworkers and other staffers have a much clearer picture of their mission, according to the review. "All community members interviewed agreed that the Moab office staff are giving priority to protecting children in the community," including doing a better job of monitoring cases and following through.

That doesn't mean all problems have been corrected. According to staff, caseloads are still too high. And it's difficult to recruit foster parents, although someone has been hired specifically to do that. The area, in general, suffers from a lack of re-sources.

But child protection's once-fractured relationships in the community - particularly with the assistant attorney general, the juvenile court and the guardian ad litem - are improving, according to those community partners.

While no regional director has been hired since the personnel shakeup, the new supervisor in the office was lauded for providing a sense of direction, better training and for closely monitoring cases and decisions.

Confusion remains, however, about the roles and responsibilities of division staff and the other child-protection partners. Juvenile Court staff say that division, Youth Corrections and court staff continue to disagree about the best placement for some youths.

Conflict of interest - or the appearance of such conflict - was a major problem in Moab a year ago. While no apparent conflicts now exist, the review suggests better training on the topic is needed.

Better case documentation is also needed. Last year, files were accurately prepared for federal billing only half the time. The accuracy has improved to 67 percent, with an overall case accuracy of 89 percent.

Arnold-Williams promises the state will continue to monitor Moab and other offices.