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(Update) Pressure builds on DCF Commissioner Olga Roche in wake of child deaths

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray on Monday called for the resignation of the Department of Children and Families commissioner, pointing to the deaths of three Massachusetts children under DCF care and apparent mismanagement within the agency.

house speaker robert deleo boston House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray on Monday called for the resignation of the Department of Children and Families commissioner, pointing to the deaths of three Massachusetts children under DCF care and apparent mismanagement within the agency.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who has defended DCF Commissioner Olga Roche, expressed his own lack of confidence in the agency after two new child deaths were reported over the weekend.

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“My confidence in that whole organization has been rattled. The question is how do we get to the solutions. I’m not confident that [firing Roche] is an adequate solution but she has some questions to answer for me,” Patrick at Logan International Airport, where he was attending an event.

Following a request for comment, DCF Spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen sent an email referring to a quote from Patrick's Communications Director, Jesse Mermell.

The statement, which was sent at 5:55 p.m., read: "As the Governor said earlier today, it is intolerable and upsetting that the lives of children are being lost. Commissioner Roche, Secretary Polanowicz and Governor Patrick met this afternoon to discuss the cases in Grafton and Fitchburg. The Governor is reviewing the information provided to him in that conversation in order to assess the appropriate next steps for the Department and the families it serves."

One-month-old Aliana Lavigne was found dead in a Grafton apartment earlier this month, two days after social workers found a week-old fax from Grafton police.

Another infant – two-week old Bailey Irish – died on Saturday after her family missed a scheduled DCF visit the day before.

On April 18, the body of a missing Fitchburg 5-year-old, Jeremiah Oliver, was found by an interstate in Sterling. The boy had been missing since September, though his disappearance wasn't reported until December.

A review found that social workers failed to make required family visits and properly report on DCF's contact with Oliver's family.

A visibly frustrated DeLeo told reporters at the State House yesterday,”Quite frankly I’m angered, I’m very much angered to see this continuing to happen."

"It shows to me complete mismanagement on behalf of DCF. We have to take strong action. We can’t wait until the end of the year. We can’t wait for a new governor," DeLeo said.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
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