Friday, June 10, 2011

DCF’s Stars amid a Cloudy Sky

I just returned from a meeting of the Department of Children and Families State-Wide Advisory Council, where Commissioner Angelo McLain and his staff updated the group of advocates, providers, foster parents, birth parents, community volunteers, and professional societies the latest happenings at the Department.  A lot of time was spent on the budget and the impact of budget cuts on the critical services that the Department provides or contracts to community groups to provide.  The cuts that the Legislature is proposing are heart rending and will certainly mean that services will have to be cut and that social workers may be laid off.  We talked about prioritizing budget line items that we could directly advocate for given the across the board reductions. I marveled at the tenacity of the Commissioner and his staff to ‘soldier on’ with their commitment to continue to provide the valuable services they offer to our vulnerable families and children.

There was one very telling piece of information that was presented and that was the poor record MA holds in the number of foster home placements that Department of Children and Families (DCF) kids experience.  MA ranks 43rd out of 51 states on placement stability. Commissioner McLain, instead of being defensive, directly conveyed that the state must do better. His staff shared with us all the actions they are taking to improve the situation and then they urged those present to add our ideas about what the Department could do.

It is this kind of genuine acknowledgement of failing grades and disappointing facts without any excuses that distinguishes Angelo McLain as a leader of integrity and inspiration.  I worked for DCF years ago and remember the impossible situations that the child welfare staff faced but I don’t recall this level of authenticity and candor displayed.  I am glad that Angelo is at the helm and we should do all we can to support him and his staff.

Carol J. Trust

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