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Child advocate’s alarm over R.I. system should stir Mass. to take hard look at DCF

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Edward Fitzpatrick’s article “Child advocate says ‘it has never been this bad,’ ” (Metro, Dec. 16) sounds the alarm on an overwhelming crisis in the Rhode Island child welfare system. Child advocate Jennifer Griffith’s testimony before a Rhode Island Senate committee is both compelling and courageous.

The same conditions in regard to lack of placements and services exist here in Massachusetts in the Department of Children and Families; however, the Commonwealth’s child advocate has not come forward in the same way to expose the agency’s malfeasance. Young adults for whom the DCF has failed to achieve permanency are eligible for a voluntary extension of care, but more than 30 percent find themselves homeless and at least 65 percent spend at least some time in our correctional system.

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This is the agency for which the Legislature, in past reforms, has mandated that caseworkers have social work degrees, yet new hires are told they do case management, not social work. How does one do social work from home for the past 22 months?

No one holds the agency responsible — not the governor, not the Legislature, not the juvenile court judges who oversee DCF cases. This agency needs oversight and management badly.

Tony DeMarco

Lynn

The writer is the cofounder of the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts and has been a practicing attorney in the juvenile court for the past 30 years.