NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 24, 2014

Lawmakers, DCF officials discuss operations at troubled agency

(Continued)

The Office of the Child Advocate reported Thursday that a child welfare agency in another state had a history with the Oliver family and did not respond to DCF requests for information when they moved to Massachusetts. Officials said the family was previously “involved” in Connecticut where there was a “gap” in the case’s transfer.

Sen. Cynthia Stone-Creem, a Newton Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, has sought information on the matter and could possibly conduct her own hearings on the matter.

Roche, who was granted the full-time job of commissioner in October, steered her testimony towards the future, and said she had “stressed” the importance of regular visits by social workers.

Rep. Sheila Harrington, a Groton Republican, asked Roche about an 82.5 percent compliance rate with the requirement to complete and document home visits.

“We have 1,600 adolescents of age, who are between the ages of 18 and 22, and not always we are able to keep up,” Roche said, noting that an emergency might crop up, a worker might be delayed in logging a visit, or a visit could take place outside of the home.

Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield Democrat, said the needs are different in rural areas where social workers have farther drives between cases and said she hoped that the lessons of the Oliver case are not forgotten.

“In a couple more years, I hate to say this, there’s going to be another high-profile case, and that’s when we’re going to pay attention again,” Farley-Bouvier said.

Roche said DCF requires social workers to have a bachelor’s degree and supervisors need a master’s degree. In 2001, DCF made an agreement requiring workers to be licensed in order to receive promotions, and she said state law does not allow the department to require workers to be licensed. The department helps train workers toward a license, Roche said.

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