Some of our state’s most vulnerable children may be at risk. That’s according to a recent audit of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
A new report suggests that hundreds of children were injured under DCF care and that the agency seemed to be unaware.
On Thursday, state auditor Suzanne Bump released a report detailing how DCF monitors the care of their children. She said that simple and free changes in their policies could better protect children.
"The problem lies, as so often happens, in the system," Bump explained.
A disturbing investigation details a breakdown in reporting injuries of children entrusted in DCF care.
"This is not a mere bureaucratic failing," Bump added.
Bump and her team conducted a two year study. She said that DCF was unaware of 260 incidents of what appeared to be serious bodily injury and unreported to the office of the child advocate, including a 15-year-old who suffered brain damage from an incident involving a firearm, or a toddler badly burned on multiple body parts.
"We found that 19 cases were not referred to DA’s office. We know that they were not referred to DA's because we took them to DA’s offices and they said they did not have them," Bump explained.
Bump said that the problem is how these cases are reported. She is proposing that DCF use MassHealth data to identify incidents of serious bodily injury.
All children in DCF care are enrolled in the state healthcare system and while DCF has access to claims data, Bump said that it is not used to track injuries and abuse.
"If the agency does not make these changes, then there is indeed a role where the legislator can direct them to do so," Bump noted.
In its response to the audit, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's administration said it had boosted DCF funding by $100 million since 2015 and hired hundreds more social workers.
Western Mass News has reached out to the Department of Children and Families for comment. They have not yet responded to us.
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Copyright 2017 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. All rights reserved.