DCF to get extra assistance

Patrick proposed funding DCF with an extra $30 million

BOSTON (WWLP) – A social workers union is pleased that their members in the Department of Children and Families will be getting extra assistance, but they’re saddened that it took a tragedy for that help to arrive.

Governor Deval Patrick had no news on the whereabouts of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, a missing Fitchburg boy under the protection of the Department of Children and Families who is now feared dead. But from a State House news conference, Patrick said he’s working to prevent another Jeremiah case from happening again.

“I think we have a great opportunity presented ironically by this terrible tragedy to rethink and reinvigorate the department and I was to assure the public that that is just what we intend to do,” said Governor Patrick.

Governor Patrick has proposed funding DCF with an extra $30 million dollars, a portion of which will help them increase staff and reduce workloads. An independent investigator has been hired to review concerns over unlicensed social workers, lack of home visits and outdated technology.

Linda Spears, spokesperson of Child Welfare League of America, told 22News, “Well those areas we’ll want to look at in more detail, I mean obviously they raise questions and I think we share the questions that people are raising about them.”

Social worker unions say their members have complained of large caseloads for years. They’re dismayed that it wasn’t until it was too late that the state took action.

Jason Stephany, spokesperson of Mass Human Service Workers Union, told 22News, “You know there’s certainly frustration amongst frontline social workers, but at the same time if there is a silver lining to be had in a tragedy such as this or any other tragedy its that, you know, it’s clear that the governor and the Legislature have been spurned to action.”

The Child Welfare League of America says they will release their independent report on the Department of Children and Families in April.