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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Office of Children and Family Services
Oversight of Residential Domestic Violence Programs (Follow-Up)


Issued: February 25, 2020
Link to full audit report 2019-F-40

Objective
To determine the extent of implementation of the four recommendations included in our initial audit report, Oversight of Residential Domestic Violence Programs (Report 2017-S-16).

About the Program
With the rates of homelessness on the rise, the plight of the homeless in New York State has been in the forefront of public attention. In his 2016 State of the State address, the Executive declared homelessness to be an urgent State priority, and announced a tightening of shelter regulations to prevent substandard housing and ensure safe and healthy living conditions. Victims of domestic violence are a vulnerable population and constitute a large segment of the population whose well-being and survival depend on emergency housing – and for whom homelessness is a daily threat.

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act (Act) of 1987 (Article 6-A of the Social Service Law) requires social services districts to provide shelter and services to victims of domestic violence, and establishes mainstream funding mechanisms for these programs. As a result of the Act, the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) created regulations to promote standards for the establishment and operation of non-residential and residential domestic violence (DV) programs. OCFS’ Division of Child Welfare and Community Services oversees the Office of Prevention, Permanency and Program Support at the OCFS Central Office, which is tasked with the licensing and oversight of DV programs in the State. Central Office oversees six Regional Offices – Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Spring Valley, and Syracuse – that provide local oversight and are responsible for the various shelter inspection functions (certification, recertification, monitoring, and complaint investigation).

Our initial audit examined whether OCFS maintained adequate oversight of residential programs for victims of domestic violence to ensure these programs operate in compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations. We determined, based on the amount and quality of information provided by OCFS, that OCFS Central Office did not maintain adequate oversight of DV residences. OCFS officials placed constraints on our audit, including delays in and denial of access to records needed to evaluate the effectiveness of their oversight. As a result, there was considerable risk that material information concerning OCFS’ oversight of DV programs was withheld from us. This, in addition to contradictory information OCFS officials provided, raised serious concerns about the adequacy of OCFS’ oversight of the DV program.

Key Finding
OCFS officials have made progress in addressing the issues identified in our initial audit. Of the initial report’s four recommendations, three were implemented and one was not implemented.


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Steve Goss
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236