Editorials

Letter | DCF Under Fire

Child welfare system is in state of disrepair

Volunteers searched last month near the Fitchburg home of Jeremiah Oliver, who disappeared in September.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File 2013

Volunteers searched last month near the Fitchburg home of Jeremiah Oliver, who disappeared in September.

Joan Vennochi’s Jan. 5 op-ed column “DCF needs accountability, oversight,” on the recent failure of the Department of Children and Families to protect a child at risk, is an unfortunate reminder of how the Massachusetts child welfare system has deteriorated.

A 5-year-old Fitchburg boy’s disappearance is unnoticed for months. Finally, his 7-year-old sister brings this terrible story to light.

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Over the past two decades, the human services system has been chiseled away. Services have been trimmed, and caseloads have risen. State lawmakers’ stern response to this case is long overdue. Front-page news gets attention, and people get fired, but scapegoating a few people does not solve the systemic problems.

It is terrible to imagine what might have happened to 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver and the atmosphere of fear and pain that he and his siblings endured. The Department of Children and Families clearly dropped the ball. But unless systemic problems are addressed in how services are delivered, more children will be harmed.

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Caseload, training, and supervisory issues have been talked about for decades but get lost among other pressing issues. Let’s hope that state policy makers will not let Jeremiah and his siblings be forgotten.

If we continue to fail children who rely on the state to protect them, we fail as a society.

Sally Rizzo

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