DCF discusses Oliver report, challenges it faces - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

DCF discusses Oliver report, challenges it faces

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Earlier this week, an independent study determined the Department of Children and Families (DCF) was not responsible for the death of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver.

But, the study said the agency has significant issues to address.

The study, conducted by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) said DCF does not have enough staff and is using inadequate technology to protect the children in their care.

"The report that came out earlier this week highlighted a lot of things that the department clearly needs to work with the community to address as a whole," said Paul Fitzsimons, the acting deputy commissioner of DCF's field operations.

Fitzsimons was in attendance at Friday's Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America seminar at Holyoke Community College.

Backing the study, Fitzsimons said the care of the children falls on more than just one agency.

"It said that no one department can be in the home of every hour of every day," said Fitzsimons. "Children are either supported or failed by all of the adults in their life."

That is a point of view shared by the Treehouse Foundation, the organization hosting Friday's event.

The group's founder, who is an adoptive parent herself, said every person needs to take a look inside themselves when it comes to child care.

"It's important for us as citizens to realize that we are part of our child welfare system and that we need to step up to the plate and support the system every day of the week," said Judy Cockerton.

Gov. Deval Patrick has put his support behind DCF. 

With Patrick's OK, the agency said they have hired 200 new staff, with more to come.

Fitzsimons said that helps, but it still will not solve everything.

"We've turned the corner on that issue, around being able to have the appropriate number of staff, although to get back to the original point, no matter how many staff we get, it will never be enough to be in every home," said Fitzsimons.  "We need the support of everyone to meet the needs of these families."

The Treehouse Foundation said they are making a push for more religious groups to get involved in the adoption process, to help create a better foundation for the children.

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