RICHMOND (WRIC) - Changes are in store for Richmond's Department of Social Services.
Mayor Jones has tapped one of his top advisors, David Hicks to take over, saying his experience helping dysfunctional departments is the reason he's now in charge.
"In the end of the day make no mistakes, I'm not pretending, nor is the mayor that this is me riding in on some white horse but at the end of the day, it's just as the mayor said, this is an agency that has got to be highly functional," Hicks says.
For nearly a year, the Richmond Department of Social Services has been plagued by allegations of mismanagement and putting hundreds of children in harm's way in an effort to make it appear that the department was doing a great job by keeping kids out of foster care.
Monday afternoon the mayor announced new leadership he's hoping can turn things around.
"What's apparent to me is that we're still not doing the best job with respect to protecting the safety of vulnerable children and this is unacceptable," he says.
A scathing audit released last month showed many cases in just one region were closed when they shouldn't have been, including sexual abuse referrals that never involved law enforcement as required, physical injuries to infants that were never investigated and assessments that were done incorrectly, yet approved by a supervisor
"Every child should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, stable, and loving environment. And our job is to fill the gap when that environment is not available to the child," Hicks says.
Hicks admits he has no experience in social services.
"I am not a subject matter expert, I will be the first one to tell anyone that."
But he says he believes his experience in government will help him identify problems and find the right experts to help come up with solutions.
For nearly a year the mayor has been looking for a new director the department. He says they're doing everything they can to find the right person and will continue to do so, no matter how long it takes.
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