Unlike most states challenged by the child-welfare watchdog group Children’s Rights, Massachusetts has refused to settle a lawsuit alleging that the state has failed to meet its legal duty to some 8,000 foster children entrusted to its care. It was an unusual decision on the part of the Patrick administration to fight this battle in US District Court. But on balance, it was the right one.
There are few jobs in state government more important than finding safe homes and compassionate foster parents — usually on a temporary basis — for children who are abused or abandoned by their own families. Children’s Rights alleges that Massachusetts has bungled the job so badly that the state ranks ninth-worst among 52 jurisdictions in terms of the rate of maltreatment of children in foster care. Angelo McLain, the state commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, disputes many of the group’s criticisms and says the agency is eager to tell its side of the story to a federal judge.