Audit: DCF unaware of assault to children in their care, 100+ incidents of sexual abuse unreported

DCF does not consider sexual abuse a "critical incident"

BOSTON (WWLP) –  An audit released Thursday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump found the Department of Children and Families was unaware of more than 250 incidents of what appeared to be “serious bodily injury” to children in their care, and did not report more than 100 incidents of sexual abuse.

“I can’t frankly understand how it is that they can justify their willing ignorance of this information,” Bump told 22News.

According to a news release sent to 22News by Bump’s office, the audit discovered that DCF was relying on others to report occurrences of serious bodily injury to children rather than using data sources they have “at their fingertips.”

The 260 incidents of serious bodily injury include:

  • 15-year-old with brain damage from a firearm injury
  • 1-year-old with first and second degree burns on body
  • 12-year-old with multiple head contusions that a doctor determined was the result of an assault

Bump is also calling on the DCF to consider sexual abuse a critical incident. Since it is not considered a critical incident, DCF does not report instances of sexual abuse to the Office of the Child Advocate, which is tasked with making sure children in state care receive timely and effective services.

Bump’s audit found that 118 incidents of sexual abuse of a child in DCF care were not reported to the Office of the Child Advocate. These incidents include:

  • Sexual abuse by 2 male employees at DCF-contracted residential facilities; Both sexually abused three girls each
  • 10-year-old raped by his father
  • 4-year-old sexually abused by her mother
  • 17-year-old who was gang raped by five assailants

Designating incidents of sexual abuse as critical incidents would trigger immediate investigation actions into those incidents.

“How can the agency not consider sexual abuse a serious injury to a child? It defies logic,” Bump said in the release sent to 22News.

Bump said in response to the audit, DCF is centralizing its reporting of critical incidents in which children in its care are involved, updating its procedures for referring incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse to DA offices, and recording child-on-child injuries in case files.

Bump suggested that DCF use MassHealth data to identify serious injuries to children under its care.

Full audit below: