Friends of Children conducted a review of the recently released FY2021 Annual Report of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF)—and the problems with the report itself, much less the child welfare system, are a continuation of the same issues with transparency and accountability that have existed for years.
As specified in the Friends of Children review, which was submitted to the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities in the MA State House, the DCF report employs inconsistent year-to-year comparisons and uses less than all available measures to analyze DCF effectiveness on many key child-welfare indicators, including placement stability and permanency.
Further, the annual DCF report is the result of multiple years of meetings of a legislatively mandated Data Task Force, with task-force members chosen by the state legislature and co-chaired by the child advocate and the DCF commissioner.
“The DCF annual report is further evidence of the alarming lack of standards held for some of our most vulnerable community members—children, youth, and young adults in child welfare. It obfuscates more than it reveals,” asserts June Ameen, Policy Director for Friends of Children. “The bottom line here is that the report offers far less meaningful information than it can or should.”
“The bottom line here is that the report offers far less meaningful information than it can or should.”June Ameen, Friends of Children Policy Director
Key questions that are not addressed in the DCF report include:
- Are children, youth, and young adults better or worse off after involvement with DCF?
- What is the status of all placement options (foster parents, congregate care, etc.)? Where is the analysis of the appropriateness of placements and the number of moves per young person? What is DCF’s action plan to address placement issues?
- What are the data on staff turnover and the percentage of new and inexperienced staff? What is the impact of staffing challenges on child and family case management and outcomes?
- What is the status of services required for children, youth and families? What are the issues and what is DCF doing to address them?
- Why isn’t DCF including measures reported to the federal government in this annual report?
- What are DCF and the Data Task Force doing to identify measures that help stakeholders, advocates, and the public understand the actual well-being of children, youth, and young adults in DCF care?
“We must absolutely, fiercely push for transparency, oversight, and accountability in this broken system on behalf of the children in Massachusetts,” emphasizes Jane Lyons, Executive Director of Friends of Children. “We must keep the pressure on the existing child welfare oversight structure – the Administration, the OCA, the Legislature, and the Courts.”