Child and Family Services Reviews Reviewer Requirements and Responsibilities

Publication Date: November 5, 2015

The 1994 Amendments to the Social Security Act authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to review state child and family service programs to ensure conformity with the requirements in titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. The Children’s Bureau, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, administers the review system, known as the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs).

In 2000, the Children’s Bureau published a final rule in the Federal Register to establish a process for monitoring state child welfare programs. Under the rule, states are assessed for substantial conformity with federal requirements for child welfare services.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico completed their first CFSR by 2004 and their second CFSR by 2010. After each review cycle, or “round,” no state was found to be in substantial conformity in all of the seven outcome areas and seven systemic factors. States developed and implemented Program Improvement Plans after each review to correct those areas not found in substantial conformity.

The third round of reviews began in 2015 and runs through 2018.

The Children's Bureau conducts the CFSRs to achieve three goals:

  • Ensure conformity with federal child welfare requirements
  • Determine what is actually happening to children and families as they are engaged in child welfare services
  • Assist states in helping children and families achieve positive outcomes

JBS International, Inc.'s Child Welfare Reviews Project assists the Children's Bureau in recruiting and maintaining a national pool of child welfare professionals who meet the established minimum education and experience requirements to serve as CFSR Reviewers.

CFSR Reviewer participation in the CFSRs requires a significant commitment of time and effort. The general requirements and responsibilities of CFSR Reviewers participating in the CFSRs are summarized below.

CFSR Reviewer Requirements

  • CFSR Reviewers must meet the established minimum education and experience requirements and must complete the prerequisite training before being considered for participation in the CFSRs.
  • CFSR Reviewers must be willing and available to participate in multiple reviews and to review and abide by the provisions of their agreement with JBS and a confidentiality of information provision. (All CFSR agency-related information reviewed or discussed during a CFSR is confidential.)
  • CFSR Reviewers may not participate in the CFSRs of any state to which they provided child welfare services, technical assistance, or consultation within 1 year before the review. CFSR Reviewers also may not participate in the CFSR of any state against which they were involved in a lawsuit or other legal action, regardless of the period of the legal action.
  • CFSR Reviewers may not provide compensated technical assistance to a state during the period following a CFSR in which they participated while the state is developing and implementing a Program Improvement Plan associated with the CFSR findings.

CFSR Reviewer Preparation Responsibilities

  • In preparation for the onsite review, it is helpful for CFSR Reviewers to review the CFSR Procedures Manual, which describes the structure and process of the CFSRs, including the overall framework, the statewide assessment, the onsite review, case sampling, stakeholder interviews, determinations of substantial conformity, collaborating during the CFSRs, statewide data indicators, program improvement planning, and the planning conference call schedule. Additional resources for preparation for an onsite review are available on the Round 3 of the CFSRs page of this website and on the CFSR Information Portal's Round 3 Resources Visit disclaimer page page.
  • CFSR Reviewers must work cooperatively with the Child Welfare Reviews Project to arrange travel to the CFSR in a timely manner.
  • CFSR Reviewers must participate in any scheduled orientation or training sessions before or during the review.

CFSR Reviewer Logistical and Planning Responsibilities

  • In planning for participation in a CFSR, CFSR Reviewers must stay in touch with the assigned Child Welfare Reviews Project staff person and respond to requests by the due date.
  • A CFSR Reviewer is expected to contact the Child Welfare Reviews Project staff person if the Reviewer:
    • Needs to cancel participation in a review or training (except that in an emergency, at least 3 weeks' notice of cancellation is required to help facilitate the selection and confirmation of a replacement)
    • Needs to change the mailing or e-mail address for receiving training or review materials
    • Does not receive the review materials by the expected date
    • Is unable to make air travel or hotel reservations by the deadline
  • CFSR Reviewers must determine their ability to accept an honorarium, in concurrence with their current employer, before agreeing to serve

CFSR Participation Responsibilities

When participating in a CFSR, CFSR Reviewers must:

  • Work alone or paired with a state CFSR reviewer to review case records, interview involved parties, and complete the CFSR Onsite Review Instrument (OSRI)
  • Use professional judgment to make rating decisions based on CFSR instructions and regulations
  • Participate in group meetings scheduled during the onsite review, as required
  • Attend the final team debriefing and present information on cases reviewed, as required
  • Assist in compiling a summary of the team’s findings during the onsite review
  • Remain present at the review site for the entire duration of the onsite review, and participate in all scheduled review activities, from the entrance conference through the last of the review activities and exit conference
  • Remain available for telephone consultation after the review, if needed, to clarify or supplement information recorded on the instruments

A CFSR Reviewer may also be asked to perform as a Note-Taking Specialist or QA Specialist.

Note-Taking Specialists take notes regarding relevant information during stakeholder interviews, condense information gathered during interviews, and use it to complete the CFSR Stakeholder Interview Guide. Work is completed during the onsite review or remotely.

QA Specialists are experts in the CFSR process and work collaboratively with review teams, including state and federal team members; review completed OSRIs to determine compliance with OSRI instructions; interpret state policy as it relates to the OSRI; and assist the Federal Team Leader in managing the onsite review.

Identification for Participation in a Review

  • The Child Welfare Reviews Project recruits for and suggests qualified and available CFSR Reviewers, QA Specialists, and Note-Taking Specialists to the Children's Bureau Central and Regional Offices, which identify them to participate in the CFSRs from the pool of qualified professionals maintained by the Child Welfare Reviews Project. The Children’s Bureau considers the following factors:
    • Whether the review is a Traditional Review or a State Conducted Case Review;
    • Type and number of CFSR Reviewers, QA Specialists, and Note-Taking Specialists needed;
    • Experience with CFSRs;
    • Whether the CFSR Reviewer or Specialist resides or works in the Region or near a CFSR review site;
    • Past performance rating; and
    • Other special circumstances needed to support the CFSR (e.g., bilingual skill).
  • The Child Welfare Reviews Project contacts CFSR Reviewers, QA Specialists, and Note-Taking Specialists identified as eligible to participate in reviews to determine their availability for particular reviews and to provide further information.
  • CFSR Reviewers, QA Specialists, and Note-Taking Specialists’ performance during a review is evaluated by the Children’s Bureau review team leaders. Future participation in reviews is contingent on successful participation in earlier reviews.
  • The state has the option of working with the Children’s Bureau to choose the pairing of reviewers for case reviews, but this is not required; CFSR Reviewers sometimes do not work in pairs.
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