House lawmakers say progress made on DCF, caseloads remain central

DCF had 243 more social workers on staff in November 2014 than it did in January 2014

BOSTON, (State House) – Noting the department hired 501 social workers since last January, two legislative committees have determined that manageable caseloads top the list of agenda items for the agency charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect.

The lawmakers credited the Department of Children and Families with instituting lifetime and 5-year bans on prospective foster and adoptive parents with specific felony convictions and making available a “dashboard” where social work staff can share quick information about home visits and people under their supervision.

In a report released Tuesday, the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight and House members of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities said DCF also needs “adequate and well supported management and supervisory staff,” more technology, training for workers and uniform policies that “address best interests of the child.”

The committees said DCF had 243 more social workers on staff in November 2014 than it did in January 2014, and said as of October 2,280 iPads had been deployed in the field.

The department is also collaborating with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to hire a medical director who will oversee evaluations of all children entering foster care and ensure that all children under the watch of DCF receive immunizations.

The report, which follows other analyses by government and non-profit agencies, spent much of its 30 pages recounting the past two years of DCF scrutiny, which began with the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, a young boy who was supposed to be under DCF oversight and who was later found dead next to a highway.

The committee also reported that following May 2014 recommendations from the Child Welfare League of America, DCF wrote a new “vision statement” to “clarify that its primary purpose to protect children.”

DCF also reviewed what homes approved through a background check waiver process should be subject to increased oversight, finding no placements required the removal of a child and 8 percent of the homes needed increased supervision.

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