Critical report overlooks key insight of front-line social workers
Like thousands of my colleagues at the Department of Children and Families, I go to work every day to serve on the front lines of child protection, ensuring the safety of the Commonwealth’s at-risk kids. It’s my career and my calling, which is why I read the Globe’s coverage of the state auditor’s report about DCF with great interest and, unfortunately, great dismay (“Audit finds DCF didn’t report cases of alleged rape and abuse,” Page A1, Dec. 8).
As the reporters note, many DCF reforms have taken place in the years since the time frame of Auditor Suzanne Bump’s inquiry. Beyond the important life-saving reforms themselves, these necessary changes were the result of a process that reflected the experience of the social workers who carry out the agency’s mission.
Our workplace union, SEIU Local 509, and the DCF administration recognize the value and perspective that only front-line social workers can bring to bear on critical policy decisions at the agency. It is incredibly disappointing that the office of the state auditor apparently does not, as her report makes several policy prescriptions without the benefit of social workers’ insight. Any report about DCF that ignores front-line staff is, at best, an incomplete snapshot and, at worst, a play to grab headlines over working toward thoughtful, continued reforms.
The writer is DCF chapter president of SEIU Local 509.
Auditor could go even further in digging into agency’s failings
As an attorney for DCF-involved parents and children, I agree with Governor Baker that state Auditor Suzanne Bump’s report missed the mark, but only because these Massachusetts families need her to investigate so much more (“Governor calls DCF criticism outdated,” Metro, Dec. 12). The Department of Children and Families has a longstanding culture of punishment and neglect of vulnerable families that has not been fixed.
Ask the children waiting months, years even, to step down out of a group home into a foster home. Ask the traumatized child waiting months on a waiting list for mental health care. Ask the family struggling with opioid addiction how DCF helps prevent their children from going into care. Ask the front-line social worker bewildered by the so-called clinical decisions of managers with no clinical background. Ask the siblings scattered across multiple foster homes who don’t see each other. Ask the relatives waiting endlessly for DCF to approve them to care for a child who is in a stranger’s home. Ask the parent desperate to get their child back from foster care who is dealing with a social worker who doesn’t seem to know what they are doing.
We all need DCF do infinitely better, and I hope Bump will look again at this agency and how it fails its core mandate.
Saying that was then and this is now won’t cut it, governor
When I taught in business school, one segment I presented was on how to undertake effective organizational change. To be effective, one has to understand which tactics a target of change might use to resist change. Atop the list was the “that was then, this is now” tactic.
Governor Baker, as a masterful political manager, has unleashed this approach in response to the state auditor’s report on the Department of Children and Families. He is arguing that the report is based on old news and that things are no longer the same at DCF. This suggests that Baker is unwilling to engage seriously with the auditor to explore what else, in addition to the significant changes already made, could improve the functioning of the agency.
The writer is a professor emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.