BOSTON (State House News Service)–The Legislature will convene an oversight hearing on May 4 to examine the death of a Fall River teenager and missteps at the Department of Children and Families leading up to the tragedy, lawmakers announced Thursday.
After calling last week for an oversight hearing, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on Thursday afternoon set an official date and listed nearly a dozen agencies and offices that will be invited to testify. The committee intends to examine the Office of the Child Advocate’s investigation and lengthy report into the death of 14-year-old David Almond last fall. In its report published on March 31, OCA found that DCF had missed several warning signs before returning Almond, who had autism, and his brother to a home from which the child protection agency had removed them three years earlier.
Lawmakers invited representatives from OCA and DCF to testify, along with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Department of Early and Secondary Education, Fall River Public Schools, Executive Office of Education, the Mass. Juvenile Court, Mass. Probation Service, the Committee on Public Counsel Services, and panels from the House and Senate. Committee co-chairs Rep. Michael Finn and Sen. Adam Gomez, both Democrats, may distribute additional invitations for testimony, an aide said.
After coming close to a deal last session, lawmakers continue to weigh a bill to update child protection laws, including a new requirement for DCF to create a managerial review process prior to a decision to reunify children. The House passed a newly filed version of the bill (H 88) in early March, and the Senate referred the bill to the Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee. The House, which advances its bill without holding a public hearing on it to accept feedback and input, last week objected to that decision last week, and the bill has not budged since then.