Report: Child protection agency fell short in Baby Doe case

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Child protection agency fell short in Baby Doe case.

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts child protection agency says it is already working on correcting problems cited in a report that criticizes the agency for not doing more to protect a 2-year-old girl whose body washed up on a Boston Harbor beach in June. A scathing report released Wednesday found the state’s Department of Children and Families conducted a sloppy investigation into possible abuse of 2-year-old Bella Bond and prematurely closed her case before the toddler’s body was discovered on Deer Island last summer.Child welfare workers’ decision to close a 2013 case involving Bella Bond — the “Baby Doe” toddler who drew national attention after her unidentified body was found on the Winthrop coastline — was “premature” and warranted a “higher level of response” to reports of neglect and abuse, a state watchdog said today.

The child welfare agency failed to properly investigate Bond’s family and personal history in 2012 and 2013 and instead relied upon outdated information copied from a 2006 assessment report filed about one of her mother’s older children. When the Quincy mother of two happened to drive past Bella’s Dorchester home one day and a saw a mountain of stuffed animals left as a memorial, it sparked an idea.

That caused social workers to make decisions about the child’s future based on incorrect information, according to a report released by the Office of the Child Advocate, an independent agency. Known for months as Baby Doe until her body was identified in September, investigators say Bella Bond was punched repeatedly in the stomach until she died by her mother’s boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, who was charged with murder. The state’s new child advocate, Maria Mossaiders, who was sworn in earlier this month and replaced the office’s long-time director, Gail Garinger, released her findings this afternoon, a month after Gov. Bond’s current and prior functioning, parenting, substance abuse and lifestyle choices, or her ability to demonstrate insight and ability for change,” the report found.

Officials have said they closed the case and had no contact with Rachelle Bond since — but they had yet to detail why they launched the cases or what prompted them to close them. Instead, the reports notes, social workers “largely copied” information from a previous report in 2006, meaning any information in the file was woefully outdated.

Doyle said she thought to herself, “What would my kids need for the first 24 hours?” and put together a wish list for foster kids age 2 to 11, though donations for all ages are welcome. Bond’s own statements in some cases and did not delve deeper by contacting professionals or agencies with whom she should have been working,” the report states. The report said she was able to function “marginally well” under the supervision of a family shelter and her probation officer because they provided her with needed resources and were able to hold her accountable for her actions. The fallout, and additional responsibility put on the other offices, “could have accounted” for some of the problems in the case, the OCA report said. Making that step standard was part of a set of initiatives Baker unveiled last month. “We should be incorporating all of the information all the way back … when we make decision about what happens going forward,” Baker said today, reiterating that it was “not standard operating procedure previously.”

While DCF is not affiliated with Doyle’s group, the agency is grateful for all public donations it receives throughout the year, said spokesperson Andrea Grossman. But the office directly overseeing Bella Bond had a manageable workload — an average of 17 cases per worker — so caseloads are not specifically to blame, it determined. The report recommended that DCF ensure that case workers know how to take a proper history without relying on copying and pasting from previous reports.

But authorities have said that Bond told investigators that Bella was being “unruly” one night in late May, and that McCarthy said he’d go calm her down.

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