The Baker Administration has placed our DCF under new executive leadership that is deeply committed to effecting very necessary improvements in our State’s child protection systems. As a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I can tell you that the Legislature is highly supportive of and a collaborating partner in all of these efforts.
The supplemental budget just passed by the House provides an additional $7 Million for immediate staffing, caseload handling, and training needs. It also requires the DCF to report what new policies and procedures are being implemented to improve its operations by November 15th of this year.
When the FY 2016 Budget was passed last summer, $907.7 million was appropriated for Child Welfare programs and services. This represents a $43.1 million, 5 percent, increase over the previous year’s spending. This spending was directed towards systems upgrades to better manage caseloads. I am closely watching for meaningful improvements resulting the various support tools provided to our caseworkers so they can perform their jobs far more effectively.
When advocating for reforms and improvements, we should acknowledge and always remember that that the overwhelming majority, 99%, of those who work for our DCF are very dedicated and most competent professionals who perform the most difficult and stressful of jobs in good faith. It is also very important for us to remember that there are very real risks associated with any course of action that our DCF might decide to undertake on the behalf of a child. Given that we are dealing in human behavior, there are no certainties as to what course shall produce a positive outcome, or a most negative one. Instead of crucifying the reasonable, we should have their backs when a tragedy occurs.
When children are unnecessarily removed from the home by the DCF, both they and their families are traumatized and often incur considerable harm as a result of it. Should a foster care stay become long term, especially in the vast majority of our DCF’s cases which are for different degrees of child neglect and not for the conscious abuse of a child, then the ward “protected” in foster care incurs at least a six to seven times greater chance of having a most negative outcome long term, both while in foster care and later on in adulthood. Negative things include increased likelihood of being a sexual assault victim, becoming pregnant as a single teen before one is ready for it, becoming drug addicted, being incarcerated for long periods beginning at a very young age, or becoming very prematurely dead. In conclusion, we must always very carefully balance the benefits against the risks of removing a child from their home especially in the long term – if we are not always playing for the best “long odds” possible for all of these children, we all are both fools and cowards.
State Rep Linda Dean Campbell represents 15th Essex (Methuen and Haverhill). She currently serves as the Acting Chair of Public Safety, on the Committees on Ways and Means, State Administration, New Technologies and Economic Development.
She can be reached at 617.722.2340/Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or firstname.lastname@example.org.