New Jersey's Department of Children and Families has made strides in many areas, but continues to fall short of several key performance benchmarks, according to the latest court-ordered progress report issued by a federal monitor Wednesday.

The report finds case planning, family team meetings and timely visitation remain areas of concern. Completing safety and risk assessments before closing cases, meeting caseload intake standards, improving services for older youths and increasing the quality of investigations were also found to be in need of improvement.

Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says the report is not surprising, but it is alarming.

"These have been issues in at least the last three monitoring reports, and it demonstrates to me that while you can build that structure and improve things like training, there's still a question of how does that impact practice and how do you improve on that."

The agency has made strides in improving access to healthnservices for foster children, doing investigations in a timely manner and placing children in family-like settings that do not exceed capacity limits, according to the report.

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