Governor orders child agency reforms after ‘Baby Doe’ case

29 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Baby Doe’s’ father no longer believes mother’s story.

BOSTON (AP) — The state’s embattled child protection agency lacks a clear mission, Gov. Beset by a series of high-profile problems at the state’s child welfare agency, Governor Charlie Baker Monday pledged to start a new chapter at Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families, with several new policies and an unyielding dedication to decreasing the chance that children will become victims of violent crime at the hands of those closest to them. “The DCF’s fundamental purpose is to keep kids safe,” Baker said at a State House news conference. “Let me repeat that: The work that will be done from this point forward will focus on one major objective — to keep kids safe.” Baker, flanked by top state officials and leaders of a union that represents thousands of agency workers, said that a chronic concern at DCF has been what he called “mission confusion.’’ Speaking forcefully, he added, “not from this point forward.” The administration is pledging to replace a patchwork of policies with a standardized playbook.

A vigil was held Friday night on Deer Island in honor of Bella Bond, formerly known as Baby Doe, where the child’s biological father says he’s changed his mind about what he believes happened to his daughter.A composite image of the girl, dubbed Baby Doe during the investigation, had been viewed by millions as authorities tried to identify her. “It wasn’t fair. — A revised intake policy aimed at providing a standardized risk assessment that social workers will make upon receiving an allegation of abuse and neglect of a child. The assessment will include a review of the family’s past involvement, if any, with DCF, a criminal background check and a review of the type and frequency of past 911 calls to the family’s home.

While the announcement was a rollout of a new way of doing things at the beleaguered agency, it also marked a new phase of the governor’s relatively young administration: Baker has now firmly taken ownership of fixing DCF. A week ago a tip cracked open the case and police identified the girl as Bella Bond and arrested her mother, Rachelle Bond and her mother’s boyfriend, Michael McCarthy. Baker made ongoing problems at DCF a core issue during his campaign to become governor last year, but he has since faced some of the same questions as his predecessors. — The reopening of DCF’s central Massachusetts office, which was closed amid state budget cuts in 2009 and has led to the agency’s western Massachusetts office taking on more than half of the state’s caseload.

According to MSP, McCarthy killed Bella in her bedroom, put her body in a bag and then put her into a refrigerator where her body stayed for almost a month. Spears said the department had in the past considered keeping children safe and keeping families together as two contradictory goals. “For me, you don’t do one or the other. He certainly should have picked up the phone and done something earlier,” Conley said. “But from a criminal responsibility point of view, there aren’t statutes that would be applicable here.” Assistant District Attorney David Deakin said Monday that police got the tip after Bond broke down in tears September 16 and told a friend of McCarthy that McCarthy had killed Bella. A key question that emerged is whether social workers who investigated Bella’s care were aware that the older children had been removed from the mother, and if that information should have reflected on the decisions to close the 2012 and 2013 cases.

The friend told police that the couple yelled and demeaned the child and that he saw Bond spank her daughter, Deakin said. “Ms Bond didn’t hear any noise in the bedroom for some time”. Linda Spears, the DCF commissioner, said Monday she could not immediately answer those questions, citing confidentiality rules and an ongoing investigation by the state’s Child Advocate. Hundreds attended the candlelight vigil and most brought a 6-inch by 6-inch piece of fabric with a personal message for Bella in order to create a blessing blanket.

Patricia Quinn, the mother of Bella’s biological father, told us she was only able to spend a few months with Bella before her mother would no longer come around and now she wishes she could have done more. “I wish we were able to take her before all this happened. Asked later if the policies might result in more children being taken from their biological parents, the governor said he did not necessarily expect that to be the case but believed the changes would clarify that the safety of children always takes precedence. At one point during the arraignment, as Deakin outlined the state’s case against Bond and McCarthy, a woman interrupted the proceedings and shouted, “I hope you rot in hell”. ‘She found Mr.

McCarthy standing over Bella, who was on a bed and the mattress was on the floor, standing over Bella with his hand near her abdomen, ‘ said Deakin. But he also acknowledged that DCF was a long way from reaching that goal, and would not commit to additional state funding beyond the $35 million increase the agency received in the current fiscal year budget.

Baker said the decision of the union to join with the administration to pursue the changes “gives us all a sense of hope and confidence that the work we are doing will get done right, will stick to the bones of the agency” and can later be updated to keep children safe far into the future. Baker outlined six main changes to DCF policies and procedures, including the first overhaul in more than a decade of the rules DCF social workers follow when they receive a report of abuse or neglect from a school, emergency workers, neighbors, or relatives. The technicians will be charged with handling nonclinical support services, such as driving children to appointments, freeing up social workers to concentrate on clinical work. In that interview, by a wooden guardrail strewn with flowers, stuffed animals, candles and cards, Amoroso alternately directed his anger at the rest of the world and himself.

And in July, a 7-year-old Hardwick boy who was being monitored by the department was taken from his home in a coma after he was allegedly starved and beaten by his father, Randall Lints. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at bostonglobe.com/politicalhappyhourDavid Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com.

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