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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Resignation of DCF head does little to address the department’s systematic deficiencies

As it has been well publicized, Massachusetts’ branch of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has come under immense pressure and criticism recently due to the department’s recent lapses in diligence. As a direct result of this, many called for the head of the department, Commissioner Olga Roche, to be summarily dismissed from her position, and she resigned this week.
Even though Governor Deval Patrick doesn’t think Roche’s resignation is in any way a solution to the issue, which it isn’t, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done to avoid repeats of these awful, shockingly avoidable tragedies in the future. An appalling number of avoidable infant deaths have occurred with unacceptable levels of frequency for the department to be described as anything other than ill-managed and farcical.
According to the Boston Globe, the DCF workers somehow managed to misplace a fax sent to them on April 3 by the Grafton Police Department. The fax contained warning of potential harm to a 1-month-old. The fax was not discovered until April 9. Two days later, the newly born child was found dead. Like the Governor said, someone at the DCF read that fax, knew about the danger, but did nothing about it.
It’s disheartening to say, but the general outline of this story is all too familiar. In the space of just a few weeks there were as many as three infant deaths which all had one thing in common — the ineptitude of the DCF.  Five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg was found dead by the side of a highway this month. His family had been under DCF supervision at the time of his disappearance last year. In the case of Oliver, he hadn’t been seen by his social worker since last April, despite requirements of monthly visits.
During a meeting with the staff of Masslive.com, Governor Patrick hit the nail squarely on the head when he alluded to the DCF’s overwhelming need for a larger workforce and more efficient technology. The DCF is charged with the protection of approximately 36,000 children, and are obviously understaffed under the current workload.

According to state statistics, more than 95 Massachusetts kids whose cases were under the supervision of the DCF had died due to abuse and neglect from 2001 to 2010. That number of similar deaths is most likely higher as the report did not factor in the deaths which occurred from 2011 to 2013.
The DCF is in need of an almost complete overhaul. Taking into account technological and man-power related deficiencies, the basic competence of the department has undoubtedly come up short.
Governor Patrick has appointed longtime State Transportation Official Erin Deveney to replace the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families. Deveney, whom according to the Boston Globe spent most of the last decade at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and has no history or experience in this field, has been tasked with the unenviable job of stabilizing the DCF.
Whilst the indignation at the performance of the DCF is certainly warranted, Jetta Bernier, who heads the group also known as MassKids, aptly asked:  “Where was all this indignation when decisions were made to reduce its budget and cripple it with 200 less social workers? Everyone has to take responsibility here.”
According to a report by the Child Welfare League of America from earlier this year, the caseloads for each worker of the DCF needs to be reduced while the department’s technology is upgraded. “The caseload numbers, and therefore the workload, was growing daily, making it extremely difficult for staff to complete their required tasks,” stated the report.
Whilst ousting Olga Roche was a step in the right direction, that’s all it was, a step. There is still much more work to be done.