, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 24, 2014

Lawmakers, DCF officials discuss operations at troubled agency

BOSTON — For more than four hours yesterday, members of a House panel sought answers about why the state lost track of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, and assurances from the Department of Children and Families that such failures will not occur again.

A DCF social worker, supervisor and an area manager were fired late last year after the Fitchburg boy’s sister went to school officials and authorities learned he had not been seen since September and the assigned caseworker had not checked in on him since May.

“I am struck by the fact that somehow this little boy didn’t slip through the cracks at one level. [He] slipped through the cracks on three separate levels,” House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight Chairman David Linsky told DCF Commissioner Olga Roche during a joint panel with the House members of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

Roche said the governor’s budget recommendation of a $9.2 million increase would allow for staffing increases, meaning one social worker would have no more than 15 cases at a time, and technology improvements to allow for more up-to-the-minute reports.

“We’re going to do whatever we need to do with the Legislature. But you can pour in millions of dollars and if there is a total breakdown in the supervision and the work in an area office — like apparently there was in Fitchburg at this time — no amount of money is going to help until there is a directive coming from the secretary or the commissioner or maybe the governor that people just have to do their jobs and that kids’ lives are at stake,” Linsky said.

“There’s zero tolerance for [them] not doing their job,” Roche said. Asked whether there had been a zero tolerance before, Roche said, “There is a zero tolerance for a worker not to fulfill their duties. There is a zero tolerance for a supervisor not to fulfill their duties, and also zero tolerance for a manager not to follow their direct responsibility of oversight of cases. There was always a zero tolerance and will continue to be a zero tolerance because our children matter.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Port Pics
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Special Features