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DCF custody should not be the path to care for medically complex children

The DCF office in Roxbury, March 2019.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Globe editorial, “DCF needs more resources to serve kids with medically complex needs” (Opinion, March 14), focuses on an important issue of kids in custody of the Department of Children and Families boarding inappropriately in emergency departments with no placement options but skips over how medically complex kids end up in DCF custody in the first place. DCF’s approach is to attribute challenges children face to pathological parents who are deficient and failing their children. Yet the support parents and children need does not exist early on, including high-quality affordable child care, schools that identify and fund special education services, direct income supports, and readily available community-based behavioral health care. DCF custody should not be the path to care for medically complex children.

The systems parents and caregivers are directed to are staffed by mandated reporters with a misguided belief that they are helping by reporting families into DCF, which is a source of stress and trauma in the lives of families as the mother in the piece, Beth Farrell, explicitly states. Governor Maura Healey is proposing $1.36 billion in taxpayer funds for DCF, with $431 million proposed for congregate care alone. More resources to DCF are not going to solve this problem; it’s time to radically reimagine DCF and reallocate the resources it already absorbs.


Rebecca Greening


The writer is an attorney and clinical instructor at the Family Justice Clinic in the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.