It took far too long for this to happen, but finally, the head of the long-embattled Department of Children and Families has resigned.
In the wake of the deaths of two more children under the state agency’s care, Commissioner Olga Roche announced yesterday that she is leaving the post that she has held for one year — perhaps the worst year that any agency director could imagine.
In mid-September, 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver went missing from his home. His disappearance wasn’t reported until three months later. In the ensuing weeks a steady stream of information came to light demonstrating substantial, systematic failures on the part of DCF to monitor Jeremiah’s troubled and violent home life.
As head of the agency and a 30-year employee, Roche naturally came under fire for those failures. There were demands for her resignation, but standing in her corner was a powerful ally, Gov. Deval Patrick. In what has become a frequent pattern, Patrick approached the problem from the wrong side of the table. When faced with a crisis, it’s the agency, the bureaucracy and the establishment that Patrick predictably falls in step with. The man who ran eight years ago as the outsider with new ideas has become the insider who holds rigidly to the old establishment.
The mysterious disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver was finally solved two weeks ago, when his body was found dumped along a roadside. Now, with the deaths of two more children and more evidence of systematic failures by DCF, even Patrick admits that the agency is in need of new leadership and a new direction, though he still defends his foot-dragging on the matter.
“I believe that before we find fault there ought to be a fair opportunity to gather the facts and assess accountability, that there ought to be some direct connection between failure and fault. Unfortunately, DCF doesn’t operate in that kind of environment today,” Patrick said. He continued, “It’s clear from the events of this weekend that (Roche) can no longer command the trust of the public or the confidence of her line staff.”