Massachusetts State House Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro
The state Department of Children and Families was criticized again by yet another report highlighting "significant management deficiencies" at the child welfare agency.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump's office released its review of the agency on Wednesday. DCF has come under scrutiny in recent months since it was revealed that Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy in its care, went missing.
Among the findings in the report are that DCF is not providing children with required medical screenings and examinations and the agency does not have adequate documentation that it has conducted required background checks on individuals living in its foster homes.
What's more, a review of addresses of DCF family and relative caregivers, foster homes, adoptive homes and other residences found that 25 of them matched the reported home addresses of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders. The report said that DCF told auditors that none of the 25 registered individuals were actually living in the same home as the child.
However, auditors said they believe "that some of the situations we identified during our matching process represent a significant risk to a child, and therefore, DCF should consider using this [Sex Offender Registry Board] information, which is readily available, as another means to ensure the safety of children placed in its custody."
In a press release, Bump's office said there were "significant management deficiencies" at DCF.
"The importance of this audit is not in its tally of how many health checks or background checks are performed, but in DCF’s inability to account for them," Bump said in a statement. "As with many of our past audits of other state agencies, this audit demonstrates a need for better oversight. Without proper documenting, DCF’s management cannot effectively supervise its staff and ensure the public that it is achieving its mission."
The report included recommendations and said some of those are already being implemented by DCF.
After the report was released, DCF announced in a news release steps, like data-sharing reporting and hiring more social workers, to increase child medical visits and enhance background checks.
"We are working day-in and day-out to enhance our ability to protect children and strengthen families," DCF Commissioner Olga Roche said in a statement. “Working with our partners to improve services and providing field staff with the resources they need is central to achieving our agency’s mission.”