Following the audit of a program in which it is a partner, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan staff said the agency will remedy any actions deemed inappropriate as soon as it receives instructions from the state of Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin State Legislative Audit Bureau’s audit of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare highlighted the practices of several organizations. This included LSS, which recruits, trains, licenses and monitors foster families in Milwaukee County through its First Choice for Children program.
After the audit, significant press attention questioned the spending of government dollars on premiums for LSS staff and money spent on church relations activities.
David N. Larson, president and CEO of LSS, said the $5,500 spent on T-shirts, mugs, pens and such sporting the LSS logo was an acceptable use of government funds. “We use these low-cost items to build employee morale, recognize milestone anniversaries and thank staff for a job well done,” he said.
Larson said church relations activities were highlighted because “when they looked at job descriptions, part of the job for some staff is leading worship. Our church relations staff is key in getting foster parents and telling our story in an appropriate way.” But the $16,000 in question from the state is “not paying for leading worship,” Larson said.
Another focus of initial media coverage was a duplicate payment of $541,604 to LSS from the state. LSS said that payment was identified by the Department of Health and Family Services and LSS prior to completion of the audit and the overpayment will be applied to future services.
Larson said LSS has been transparent throughout the audit process. “The church, through LSS, has been entrusted with our tax dollars and we take that very seriously,” Larson added.
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