Audit finds questionable costs in some foster-care pacts

TRENTON – The N.J. Auditor issued a report Tuesday that found millions of dollars in questionable costs and inefficiencies in contracts for foster care services.

The audit of the Department of Children and Families’ Division of Child Protection found, among other things:

*Questionable costs totaling $4.2 million during a review of $13.5 million in contracts from Jan. 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011;

*About $1.8 million in annual savings could be achieved if the contracts were properly monitored;

*And about $6.2 million is owed to the state in unspent funds and unpaid taxes.

The Auditor’s report did find that foster care rates paid by the division were uniform throughout the state, but that rates paid by provider agencies were either higher or lower than federal guidelines.

In its response to the audit, Allison Blake, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, defended the Division’s progress, acknowledged the audit’s findings and said it would take steps to address the findings, and would standardize accountability and oversight.

The audit provided some examples of problems:

*One provider charged $250,000 but subcontracted foster care to another provider, and the audit points out that if the state contracted directly with the subcontractor it could save $250,000;

*Although a doctor’s annual compensation is capped at $212,000 regardless of the size of the organization, one provider charged $233,500 for one physician in 2011. The same doctor received $35,737 from another provider that same year; Audit finds questionable costs in some foster-care pacts