On the eve of his State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Deval Patrick sought Monday to show he is fully engaged in trying to fix the troubled state Department of Children and Families, which has been under fire for losing track of a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who is now feared dead.
At a State House press conference, Patrick said he has asked the Child Welfare League of America to conduct a sweeping examination of the family agency’s policies, social worker caseloads, and licensing rules, among other issues, and to provide periodic reports. The governor said he wants the group’s final report completed by spring so that the Legislature will have time to take up any reforms that may be necessary before lawmakers conclude major business in July.
“I think we have a great opportunity, presented ironically, as a result of this terrible tragedy, to rethink and reinvigorate the department,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he has also ordered state information technology leaders to improve technology at the agency so that its workers can file and use timely reports. Currently, social workers have up to 30 days to log home visits into a computer system, creating a delay in timely reporting of the visits.
“DCF has little access to real-time information,” Patrick said. “There is almost certainly a technological fix here.”
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