Having someone who knows your rights can be invaluable when it comes to protecting your family

The State of Massachusetts has taken custody of 8,979 children (less than 18 years old) and 1,628 young adults (18 to 23 years old) 2nd Quarter of FY2008 (12/31/07).
On average according to a 2006 statement by former DSS Commissioner Harry Spence in one year time period in Massachusetts about 100 actual cases of true child abuse occur.
DCF Commissioner: Angelo McClain appointed July, 2007.
Link to all DCF Locations and Contact Numbers. The Department of Family and Children have a very necessary job to perform. The safety and well being of children is a concern for all those who live in Massachusetts. No rational adult desires to see any child abuse or neglected.

This child welfare system that has a real social need towards our most vulnerable population, our children, has lost focus of what is in the “best interest” of the children.

Today in Massachusetts, the Department of Children and Families fails to provide family based services for children who need assistance. Via press releases, the general public is informed that we have rampart child abuse issues in Massachusetts, all while true facts are cloaked in secrecy or hidden behind the closed doors of Juvenile court.

According to the Department of Children and Families statistics there were 10,607 individuals in placement on the last day of the 2nd Quarter of FY2008 (12/31/07). Included in this count are 8,979 children (less than 18 years old) and 1,628 young adults (18 to 23 years old). The largest age group in foster care was 12-17 years (32-38% range across regions).

Represented in the static’s is that approximately 2,200 yearly referrals including discretionary referralsare made by DCF regarding allegations of physical or sexual abuse and or the death of a child to District Attorneys within all the state of Massachusetts.

The number of actual prosecutions is not provided.

Not listed clearly in the statistics is the fact the vast majority or 70% percent of all cases DCF “supported” are based on allegation of neglect.

Neglect determination in many cases is subjective to an interpretation of a supervisor, who never met the family to begin with.

It has been a long standing policy with DCF, that they “need to know” your family if you are not in their system. Constitutionally, this is such a violation of our most basic right as American’s.

In other words, if a family comes to their attention of the Department, they will support allegations of neglect just to assess the family to add into the family – net computer tracking system.

Parents who disagree with the “Department’s” decision to “support” allegations of abuse or neglect by law are allowed a Fair Hearing to dispute the determination. This process is designed within the 110 CMR statute to obtain a Fair Hearing within 90 calendar days.

In reality this position of Fair Hearing Officer, has been under funded for years by the “department” resulting in a huge number of back log of cases.

If you apply for a Fair Hearing today, you will receive a reply in letter from the Fair Hearing office which states you have not been scheduled for a hearing, and unless you meet a certain criteria, you will not be allowed to have a hearing indefinitely.

DCF supervisors and Area Managers are well aware of the fact you can not ‘dispute” their supported findings in a timely manner.

In addition, when an individual request their records, necessary to dispute a determination by DCF which by CMR 110 statue are to be made available in thirty days or forty five if voluminous. Record request are rarely ever produced within the thirty day time frame. When the records are accessed in may cases much of the material will be redacted (blacked out).

The redaction of the material is in violation of your sixth amendment, constitutional right to be able to confronted any witnesses against you.

In many cases, the common thread among parents who read their 51B investigation reports, is the determination that much of the material that is written by DCF is inaccurate.

By limiting the availability to dispute a determination, DCF can than write a service plan for you and your family which demands task now called actions be completed, not services to be provided.

DCF provides only five services to families in accordance with 110 CMR, in addition a sliding fee may be applied in order to obtain the required service.

The five services that can be provided are family support services, babysitting services, parent aide services, supportive child care, counseling and case management services. Case managements services are not subject to any sliding fee requirements.

If in the determination of the Department, after six months if you have not fulfilled the requirements of all required tasks or actions assigned in your service plan, a care an protection petition can be brought before the Juvenile Court to obtain custody of your child(ren).

The ability to dispute the assigned task or actions in a service plan can happen by following the CMR 110 10.37 grievance process. This process is when you send a written response to the Area Program Manager or Assistant Director of Foster Care Review within 21 calendar days to dispute the alleged task or actions. If it solely up the the Area Program Manager or Assistant Director of Foster Care Review to make the determination to change the service plan. The decision of Area Program Manager or Assistant Director of Foster Care Review are finial.

The reality for Massachusetts families is your right to due process has been denied by the Department of Children and Families for many years.

Families who are denied the ability to dispute determinations, and fail in the eyes of the Department to fulfill their service plan can and do have their chlid(ren) taken in to the custody of the department without their action ever meeting the legal criteria for abuse and or neglect.

Where are our juvenile court judges?

Where is the media in exposing this outrage?

As we know, children in Massachusetts are two thirds more likely to be abused in foster care than with their biological families.

According to a 2007 study children who are placed in Foster care are less likely to graduate from high school, and are more likely to be pregnant, drug dependant, homeless or incarcerated. In other words children who are placed in foster care are far less likely to become productive citizens rather than if they were allowed to remain with their biological families.

According to the FY’08, Q1, FY’08, Q2 statistics the Special investigation unit which is designed to investigate allegation concerning employees of Children and family department, foster care, schools, daycares or other professionally related abuse or neglect accusations had a total of 313 investigation decisions in which only 46 cases were supported. That means the Special Investigation unit unsupported 85% percent of their investigations.

For the general population the Judge Baker Center located in Springfield “unsupported” their cases only 26% of the time. This records a usually disproportionate amount of “unsupported” case by the Special Investigation unit when investigating screened in allegation of abuse or neglect.

For many years the department has been accused of looking the other way in cases involving foster care abuse. Numerous public cases such as 2002 Warren Foster care case where seventy one (71) 51A’s had been filed over several years year regarding allegations of sexual abuse that were overlooked.

In 2005, 4-year-old Dontel Jeffers of Boston was killed by his foster mother, Corinne Stephen. Stephen was sentenced to eight years in prison December 2007.

In 2006, Haleigh Poutre of Westfield, who fell into a coma after a severe beating was the subject of numerous allegations that were overlooked.

Recent legislative changes the Department of Children and Families, such as a simple name change and more legislation that requires additional reports and boards be created do very little to help our Massachusetts Families and Children.

People do not understand:

The Juvenile Justice system is broken, Juvenile Judges routine stamp ex pâté motions by DCF to take custody of children with very little regard as to “probable cause” or the proof of allegations.

Juvenile Judges need to be given back the ability to judicially overrule DCF to protect the children of Massachusetts.

In a DCF, 51A investigation, the investigation can result in criminal charges based on any disclosures you make without you having to have your Miranda rights read to you.

Only, thirty hours of classroom training is required to be an investigator or case worker for DCF. (A bachelor degree is preferred in a relative subject under the new regulation just passed 07/10/2008).

You are not allowed to know the actual reporter of a 51A report. You are not provided a copy of the actual 51A report filed against during the 51B investigation.

If you are supported, your family will be forced to participate in a forty- five day assessment (3 months). Your failure to participate will usually result in DCF filing for a care and protection petition for the Department to take custody of your children.

The determination of the 45 day assessment, which is made by supervisors, who never meet you or your family will be the bases for the task (now called actions) assigned in the service plan written by DCF. The task or actions assigned may have nothing to do with the original allegations contained in the 51A.

Service Plans routinely do not include services, they demand task or actions be completed by parents.

If you do not complete all the assigned task assigned after a six month review, DCF may go forward and seek a care and protection order from the court to take custody of your child(ren).

Children in foster care at two thirds more likely to be abuses than children in their biological families.

Children in foster care are chemically restrained and given adult doses of medication to control behavior of children who want to return to their loving families.

According to former DCF Commissioner Harry Spence in 2006 only about 100 case of true physical child abuse happen every year. Then why do we have 10, 000 children in foster care?

Massachusetts actually profits from Federal Reimbursements by placing children in Foster care.

Over site agencies

Each location of DCF is assigned an overseeing agency. This approach sounds effective, however what is not said is this agency is allowed to make profits from the service(s) they provide.

The agencies who are granted the ability to work as oversight of DCF do not deal with the allegations.

These agencies have no authority to challenge a decisions, they have no authority to mandate a change in service plan.

These agencies assign and provided services to parents involved, which can results in profit for the agency.

The overseeing agency can request prior to the service being established, a disclosure of the families financial status. In most cases the services are directly tied to payment of fees.

Meaningful changes must be made:

Families in Massachusetts need to have the ability to seek legal recourse that is enforceable for DCF workers who subject children and families to emotional maltreatment, due to incorrect representation of material facts regarding an 51 B investigation, and or assessments.

Mandating Fair Hearings be made available within 90 days as written in the 110 CMR’s. Change the format of the Hearing to allow the Fair Hearing to be held before a board of five local individuals who are parents in the community within DCF office location, who not associate with DCF.

Mandate the delivery of family based service which allowed for children to remain within the family.

Written legislation, which clearly states, unless a parent or guardian has been criminally charged and or convicted in court of law of the criminal statue of abuse or neglect of their child(ren). Those child(ren) cannot be taken into custody by the Department without due process unless under emergency situations initiated by legal authorities.

Funnel monies from the Children’s Trust Funds directly into necessities for children and family to relive daily stressors related to economic hardships.

Change the work schedules for social workers to 10 am to 7 pm to better serve their family based clients.

Record child abuse allegations that occur in foster care separately to actually demonstrate the volume of abuse or neglect which occurs under state control.

Stop the ability of DCF to screen out allegation of abuse or neglect in foster care, and have a separate investigations of these allegation by individuals who are not employed by DCF.

May 30, 2008

Social workers to protest official’s visit


WORCESTER— Local social workers, reeling under heavy workloads and stung by what they say is a lack of support from the upper echelons of the state Department of Social Services, plan to greet DSS Commissioner Angelo McClain with black armbands, purple union shirts and protest signs this afternoon when he arrives in the city to meet with staff.

“We want more support. This is a culture of fear. The caseloads are high and out of control. We’re angry about this. We want to get our message across,” said Christine Crean, a protective investigator in the DSS office in Whitinsville.

A number of local DSS workers gathered at the Blackstone Tap on Water Street yesterday evening after work to plan the protest and to make signs to hold up outside the DSS regional office on Winthrop Street today during their lunch breaks.

“It’s an unmanageable number of cases,” said Danielle M. Bjork, a veteran protective investigator based at the Winthrop Street office. “I don’t think the public understands the limitations we have in doing our jobs.”

Another social worker in the office, Michele Hight, noted that just one additional case piled on a social worker’s desk often requires meetings with five or six family members spread out across the region, not to mention meetings at schools and court hearings.

“We need to see everybody involved with that child,” Ms. Hight said.

Ms. Crean, a top union official for DSS workers in Central Massachusetts, said she and other state social workers also have been under increasing pressure over the last year to hit statistical goals for home visits and other measures of productivity, at the expense of quality social work.

“They say they want quality, but they’re measuring quantity,” she said.

Workers also have been rankled by public statements from Mr. McClain, the DSS commissioner, that the average caseworker has a workload of about 18 cases at any one time. Union officials say that figure is a rough and misleading calculation that doesn’t take into account caseworkers who are out on extended education and medical leaves or don’t have cases for other reasons.

“It’s a disservice to the workers, and to the families we’re trying to service, to give the false impression that caseloads are at a manageable level of 17 or 18,” Ms. Crean said. “In the Worcester East office, as of the end of March, there were 31 people who had a caseload of 20. There were six that had 22.”

DSS spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz yesterday declined to address the concerns raised by the social workers, saying the agency would wait to find out what they had to say during today’s meeting with the commissioner.

She said Mr. McClain has been meeting with staff in DSS regional offices around the state.

“The goal of this is to meet with staff and hear their concerns, and to share his vision,” Ms. Kritz said.

Several of the DSS workers who gathered last night in advance of the commissioner’s visit said they love their jobs, but they need more support and understanding from the agency’s top brass to do it properly.

Ms. Bjork, the protective investigator based in the city, said she hoped to have a chance to speak directly to Mr. McClain today during his visit.

“I’d tell him we do this because we love the kids and we care about the families,” she said.”

June 5, 2006

State owes $86.6m to the US, audit says

Medicaid overcharges blamed on lax oversight

By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff

State Medicaid officials repeatedly violated federal laws and regulations and must return $86.6 million to the US government, a new federal audit has found.

The audit, by the inspector general for the US Department of Health and Human Services, found that from 2001 to the first quarter of 2004, state Medicaid officials overcharged the federal government for services provided by the state Department of Social Services. The audit found that the violations did not involve willful misconduct, but resulted instead from lax oversight.

The questionable claims, the audit said, included salaries for DSS employees who were providing welfare and child protection services that were not related to medical care. Examples cited by the inspector general included instances in which the state billed Medicaid for DSS workers who were making referrals to district attorneys, developing service plans for special-needs children, participating in and preparing for legal proceedings, conducting investigations, and trying to find homes to place children.

In addition to returning the $86.6 million, Levinson said the state must work with the federal government to resolve another $27 million in disputed Medicaid charges, about half of which was paid for by the federal government. He also recommended that the state establish stronger procedures to ensure that it does not violate laws and regulations again.

79 out of 100 child abuses deaths were committed in DSS care as reported March 15, 2002

In Massachusetts the general public fails to comprehend that it is not just one component of the church scandal, Social Service abuse or questionable DA tactics that can be individually corrected; this multifaceted problem must be addressed concurrently. To only say we seek to support victims would be meaningless without the system correction in which the re-victimization of the victim is allowed to routinely occur.

Truthful disclosure of childhood injustice in Massachusetts must begin. The Catholic Church having been exposed by the media in this most horrible childhood sex scandal has opened the minds of the many to see injustice has occurred at the most scared of levels. Six months ago most of the known sexual abuse information would have been viewed as unthinkable. Yet as a nation we remained numb to the depth of disperse, that betrayal of trust by the Catholic Church upon the victims. The disregarding of children safety, in preference to maintaining reputation is beyond reproach.

Childhood injustice committed by the Department of Social Service presently is peeking at explosive levels. DSS statistics fail to disclose actual perpetrators of childhood abuse. Recently a Collation to save Social Workers jobs held a rally at the State House. They clearly stated 100 children have died from abuse in Massachusetts in the past year. The fact that seventy-nine (79) of these children died while in the custody of the state of Massachusetts remained hidden. It is not parental abuse upon children but the State of Massachusetts. DSS reigns unchecked power threw the judicial system unmercifully. Fueled by an unlimited ability to collected Federal funds, foster care placement, remains paramount while family reunification is disregarded. The system designed to protect children routinely now abuses them, without fear of prosecution.

The District Attorney position to protect the individual member of society has been lost. Which is perhaps the greatest injustice of all. As many of these clergy abuse victims from the past comes forward and reported going to the police, seeking prosecution of the perpetrators only to be told no. How can we not illustrate that prosecutorial actions were denied. In Worcester county it is apparently obvious that selective prosecution occurs routinely. Prosecution of state official’s who routinely “look away” at abuse in state facilities must begin to maintain safety for all citizens. The time to change has been painfully illustrated by the uncovering of events of the past, events that other wise would of been swept away.

Children First Advocacy and or their employees or sub contractors do not provide legal advice in any situation. Children First Advocacy provides services associated with procedural actions concerning allegations child abuse or neglect and educational issues facing children and families in Massachusetts.