Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Who Is Responsible?

Last week I attended a meeting with DCF Commissioner Olga Roche and a group of child welfare stakeholders who were briefed on the imminent release of the Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) Progress Update to Governor Patrick and Secretary Polanowicz.  This is the interim report of the ongoing independent investigation of the Department of Children and Families, the culminating report to be released in May.

Click HERE for the Report

CWLA is one of several groups investigating the recent disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year old boy, along with the longer standing issues impacting the delivery of services to children and families involved with DCF across the state.   In turn, the Office of the Child Advocate did an inquiry and the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight is in the midst of its investigation.  The Department has also performed its own study. 

Everybody wants someone, or someone else to DO SOMETHING about DCF.  It is true that some of us (i.e. child welfare agencies, SEIU, NASW, etc.) are some of the key groups that have visible and even legal accountabilities.  Responsibility for the current state of child welfare in the Commonwealth is not restricted to these easily identified groups.   It is ALL of our responsibility.  Our neighbors, family members, school personnel, the mailman who comes to the door daily, along with those individuals in the medical profession.  The task of looking after members of our communities who may be compromised by a complex combination of mental and physical health issues, poverty, generational domestic violence, homelessness, joblessness and addictions, belongs to all of us.

Recently, I developed an interest in ancient society’s view of family and child welfare.  I found that 4,500 years ago papyrus scrolls placed in pyramids spelled out acts of mercy that society members had to follow.  3,000 years ago the Mosaic code instructed the Jewish people to help the poor and disadvantaged people and in 530 BCE Siddhartha, the Buddha, taught that the path to enlightenment included love and charity to others.  There was no Department of Children and Families in ancient times, no Riversides, Waysides or MSPCCs…just everyday people looking out for each other.  True we have become more specialized 6,000 years later with the advent of groups performing the functions that all early peoples were expected to perform.  However the development of these fairly modern (at least post Romanic) institutions still does not exempt  the rest of us who are not officially  ‘in the business’ from watching out for our brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors and friends.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Carol, for your comments. I worked for 38 years at DCF. Many of us argued for the same things in the CWLA report but no one listened. In fact the "powers that be" we're punitive to those who spoke out. Where were all the "concerned" Legislators when the budget was cut by 100 million dollars resulting in higher caseloads and fewer resources to protect children? Why were positive innovations like Collaborative Practice and Teaming abandoned? Why didn't they follow the lead of former Commissioner Spence to create a system designed to be a learning and constantly improving community of practitioners? When will they act with the way they speak? Let's hope they will now practice what they love to preach.