"I imagine we are going to learn about both the mistakes and about the unavoidable tragedies," said panel member Frank P. Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates, which provides free lawyers for neglected or abused children.
A key task will be to examine DHS' heavy use of private agencies to deliver services to clients. The panel is expected to focus both on the performance of these private caseworkers and oversight of them by DHS social workers and administrators.
Eighty-five percent of the agency's $600 million budget, the bulk of which comes from federal and state funds, is spent on private contractors.
Activist lawyer Carol Tracy, one of the new appointees, said yesterday that the group would try to gather information from social workers and their bosses, from the private agencies - and from families served by DHS.
Street announced his plan to create the panel five days after The Inquirer published an investigation into the the deaths of children whose families were known to DHS.
Among other cases, the paper has examined the death of a 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who died of heat stroke during a heat wave last summer, even though DHS and a private contractor were supposed to be helping the girl's mother look after her.
The Inquirer has reported that the number of child deaths in families known to DHS grew from three in 2003 to 10 in 2005.
Street announced the final five appointees to the panel on Friday. The three national experts are:
David Sander, the former head of the Los Angeles County agency equivalent to DHS. He is now executive vice president of Casey Family Programs in Seattle, a nonprofit that focuses on foster care.
Linda Spears, a vice president of the Child Welfare League of America, based in Washington, and the nation's oldest organization for troubled children.
Fred Wulczyn, a research fellow at Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago. He also directs the Center For State Care and Adoption Data there.
The local appointees are:
Dr. Cindy W. Christian, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and an expert on child abuse.
Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project.
Tracy is already serving as cochair of the mayor's Domestic Violence Task Force.
She said the new effort would "require a lot of honesty" from DHS and private contractors.
"That isn't always easy," she said.
The panel cochairs, named Nov. 2, are Carol W. Spigner, a University of Pennsylvania professor of social work who previously advised New York City on improving its welfare system, and Bill Mills, PNC Bank president for Philadelphia and South Jersey and a member of Street's Children's Commission.
Also serving is Marc Cherna, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.
Contact staff writer Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.