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DCF in the News…
Lately it seems impossible to go an entire week without seeing or hearing a story about the embattled Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Three recent tragedies, all involving children connected to DCF, have again put the department on the front pages of newspapers and led to cries for changes in the child welfare system. Nonetheless, it is important that people look beyond the headlines and try to understand what DCF was created to do and to recognize the daily challenges state social workers must confront.
DCF has a simple and straight forward mission: Strive to protect children from abuse and neglect and, in partnership with families and communities, ensure children are able to grow and thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. While the mission is easy to understand, achieving it is more than complicated. DCF intervenes with thousands of families and children every year and in virtually every case it is with a family in active crisis. Drug abuse, neglect, sexual trauma, criminal activity, poverty, and mental health issues are common concerns for DCF social workers trying to effectuate a positive change in a child’s life. Helping a child overcome any one of these challenges seems daunting enough but helping a child thrive when confronted with most or all of these challenges is a herculean task. Headlines rarely capture these elements when dedicating 350 words or 75 seconds of air time to a case that DCF may have spent years trying to salvage.
Fortunately, change is on the way. Governor Charlie Baker has put forth major changes in an effort to support DCF and its mission. In addition to over $35 million in new funding, DCF has new procedures for tracking children and families, reducing caseloads for employees, training staff, assessing risk, managing intakes, and emergency responses. There is also an investment in technology and in resources such as reopening a shuttered regional office in Worcester. Given that DCF is tasked with saving at-risk children it seems likely that the department will always be a lightning rod when something goes wrong. Hopefully, all of the changes to DCF moving forward will help to shine a light on the countless times every year that things go right.
Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO