Friday, December 20, 2013

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Independent Investigation of DCF Services; Immediate Review of All Cases Warranted for the Welfare of Children

Responding to recent reports of the disappearance of a missing 5-year-old Fitchburg child, the Senate Republican Caucus, led by Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield), who is the Republican member serving on the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, is calling for an independent investigation by Auditor Suzanne Bump and/or Inspector General Glenn Cunha into the failures of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) regarding the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver.
Since September 2011, Jeremiah Oliver and his family have been receiving services from DCF, however, the supervisor and social worker assigned to the family failed to conduct monthly, mandated household checks.  Sadly, Jeremiah Oliver was last seen on September 14th, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

In the December 20th letter to Auditor Bump and Inspector General Cunha, the Senate Republican Caucus wrote “Increasingly, as our understanding of the department’s failure to carry out its mandate expands, there are further growing concerns for all other children in the DCF system.”

On Thursday, December 19th, Commissioner Olga Roche of DCF announced that the department will conduct its own internal review into as many as 40,000 cases, however, citing the need for an independent review, the caucus wrote, “We request and encourage a full review and examination independently or in concert (by the auditor and the inspector general), of the DCF’s practices and procedures so that we can prevent any other similar abuse or problem from occurring.”

The Senate Republican Caucus requests that the investigation include:

* collecting as much information as possible to assess the risk and safety issues for children in the system;

* determining how many children have not had direct, monthly contact with a DCF case worker;

* determining the adequacy of the 110 CMR 6.00 and other pertinent regulations relative to case review procedures for children in foster care and non-foster care settings;

* determining the adherence to standards in comprehensive assessments and family service plans;

* determining the Department’s adherence to procedures established under 110 CMR 13.00 for the Case Investigation Unit;

* assessing the number of service plans initiated as a result of a 51A child abuse or neglect filing or court order;

* collecting information as to the standard number of cases assigned to social workers and the average number of children assigned to social workers;

* determining if there has been public access to appropriately redacted reports of the Department's Case Investigation Unit;

* determining if case management activities and other services provided to children and families were adequate and appropriately adhered with DCF policies and regulations;

* referring any relevant finding of a criminal nature to the Attorney General;

* providing recommendations that may improve the DCF’s policy, regulations, training, or contracted services; and

* providing procedural recommendations, that when adhered to, will require that DCF acts in a manner that is accountable and open to oversight.

“The nature and scope of these developing circumstances demand independent investigations.  Only through well-developed inquiry can we determine how to best help the staff and management of DCF to protect the lives of children,” the Caucus wrote.