Baker: Child welfare audit relied on outdated info

Massachusetts
Massachusetts-DCF-Audit-Report-Issued-December-7-2017_758293

BOSTON (AP) – Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is pushing back against an audit that claimed the state’s child welfare agency failed to detect or report hundreds of injuries to children in its care.

In a letter Monday to employees of the Department of Children and Families, Baker says it was “irresponsible” for Democratic Auditor Suzanne Bump to rely on data that was 2-3 years old and discuss the findings as if they reflected current circumstances.

Baker says the report ignored great strides made by the agency in recent years, including the hiring of 350 new social workers.

The governor was also skeptical of the auditor’s recommendation that DCF monitor Medicaid claims data to identify potential abuse of children, though he said the administration would look into using it as a “secondary information tool.”

Statement from Auditor Bump on Letter from Governor Baker

(Office of Auditor Suzanne Bump) – State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump released the following statement on the letter released today by Governor Baker in response to her audit of the Department of Children and Families:

“Governor Baker has issued a political statement and I respect his ability to do that. The public, however, should consider not the Governor’s statement, but DCF’s own acknowledgement that the circumstances that gave rise to the audit findings have not changed. The Governor is denying a reality that DCF itself does not dispute.

The Governor has cited progress that the agency has made in several areas. This audit, however, points out that there are additional areas that must be remediated. For instance:

  • DCF still does not proactively consult the MassHealth data to which they have access in order to supplement the reports of physical injuries to children in their care that they already receive. We know the value of this information; it is how we identified 260 instances of injuries to children that DCF did not know about.
  • DCF is not reporting all so called “critical incidents” of child abuse to the Office of the Child Advocate. Our data indicates there has not been a reduction in critical incidents, yet the number of reports to the OCA has gone down.
  • DCF still does not consider sexual abuse a critical incident to be reported to the Office of the Child Advocate.
  • As for the 19 cases we believe should have been referred to the District Attorney’s offices, DCF has offered no proof they were referred and the District Attorneys have told us in writing they had no reports of the cases.

This doesn’t mean that other positive actions are not being taken by the agency. It just means there is more work to be done. This is not an indictment of the leadership nor the dedicated workers of the agency. It is a continuation of systemic flaws that we urge DCF and Governor Baker to address.”

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