Special Efforts Being Made in Massachusetts to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

February 12, 2018
- Lawmakers continue to reshape the state's child protective services with another set of sweeping proposals costing an estimated $14 million. Three bills now before the legislature would add social workers, nurses, lawyers and licensed alcohol and drug counselor positions to the Division for Children, Youth and Families. New programs would be developed to provide counseling services to families with cases under DCYF review. [Recommendation 7.1l]

Following an uptick in child deaths, DCF announced a series of reforms, including increased staffing and new supervisory policies.  For example, the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) completed a legislatively mandated review and analysis of the office management, recordkeeping, and background record check procedures of DCF. The DCF is now "vigorously rebuilding their management structure, revising their supervision and clinical oversight, issuing new policies for intake, assessment, service planning and case closing, enhancing their training of staff, and implementing a robust system of quality assurance." Also, at the request of the governor, the OCA convened a group of senior staff from state agencies to review the business practices involved in the licensing and oversight of these programs. They have met continuously since the spring of 2016, and this work is ongoing. The OCA has also vowed to focus more on outcome data. They are currently working on a project to map all the children's services in the state, and hired an independent research consultant with expertise in the analysis and evaluation of child-serving agencies and programs to help them do so. In addition, they updated their complaint line, added an online form to file a complaint, and updated online resources.  According to DCF, child maltreatment fatalities have declined since the implementation of these reforms. [Recommendation 7.3]

In 2016, the scope of critical incidents (fatalities, near fatalities and serious bodily injury to children) reviewed by OCA was expanded to include those involving children served by all executive branch agencies, not just those within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. In FY17, OCA is leading a needs assessment of the statewide Child Fatality Review Program with the goal of making recommendations for improvements. [Recommendation 6.2]