Failing Our Kids

Measures of the Broken Child Welfare System in Massachusetts

By June Ameen, Friends of Children, and Kate Lowenstein, Citizens for Juvenile Justice, with Joan Montgomery Halford, writer

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

attributed to Albert Einstein

We have fallen into a nightmarish cycle in Massachusetts.

It’s a cycle of child-death incidents followed by investigations, reports, audits, apologies, promises, and reforms—and then the cycle repeats yet again. Meanwhile, for many years, Friends of Children has been publicly asking for specific outcome measures that demonstrate the intended and actual impacts of child welfare reforms in Massachusetts, for children and for families.

There were no answers.

For years, we have been imploring our leaders to step outside the cycle of tragedy and follow up on the endless investigations, news reports, and journalistic pieces that document this litany of systemic failure.

The silence that has followed our requests has been deafening.

Into this silence, the hard data and a timeline of events speak volumes for our kids.

Using federal child welfare data from Child Trends (FY 2019, 2020, 2021) and the report of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF Annual Reports FY2021 and FY2022), Friends of Children and Citizens for Juvenile Justice have conducted a comparison of publicly available key performance metrics related to foster care.* This review first compares DCF to U.S. averages (all states) and specifically to other states (the wealthiest, the poorest, and the most populated, as well as other New England states).  Additionally, we identify DCF performance before implementation of the 2015 child welfare reforms of Governor Charlie Baker’s administration and several years later to look at the impact of the reforms.

*Foster care is a temporary living situation for children and young adults who have been removed from their homes by DCF and the Courts; placements may include relatives, foster homes, and group facilities.

The Data

As you review the graphics and timeline that follow, you’ll learn that Massachusetts is failing children in DCF custody compared to other states on critical measures.

Measures such as:

  • The average length of time in foster care;
  • Children experiencing four or more foster care placements while in DCF custody;
  • The percentage of children adopted by relatives; and
  • The percentage of children in group care.

Children and youth involved with DCF, among the most vulnerable in our society, have very little presence in our legislative chambers, our newsrooms, and our boardrooms. And they have no direct say whatsoever in our voting booths. A total of 13,045 unique children were in foster care during FY2022, a staggering number of young lives (DCF Annual Reports FY2022). Children have no money and no power. They are functionally voiceless in the policy decisions that most affect their lives.

Remember these vulnerable young citizens—their voices, their faces, their futures—as you read the data and timeline that follow.

Child with thoughtful expression in vehicle cabin

You’re about to learn that children in DCF custody in Massachusetts would do better to live in almost any other state.

Even with what the Baker administration and the state legislature called “major reforms” in 2015, 2019, and 2021, DCF performance remains among the worst in the nation.

Available data do not currently include meaningful measures of well-being, measures of child development and functioning across multiple domains (e.g., physical, cognitive and social-emotional), yet one can safely assume that the poor performance measures we do have are linked to poor well-being measures for the children and youth currently in the state’s custody—functionally, in our custody.

Time Spent in Foster Care

Average length of time spent in foster care

(FY2021)

A long time in a temporary placement

HIGHER than the national average

DCF-2023-Length-A-6Nov2023

3rd HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-Length-B-6Nov2023

2nd HIGHEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-Length-C-6Nov2023

2nd HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-Length-D-6Nov2023

2nd HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2023-Length-E-6Nov2023

INCREASING in recent years

*DCF FY22 Annual Report
*DCF FY22 Annual Report

5+ Placements Exiting to Reunification

Percent of Children Exiting to Reunification With 5+ Placements

(FY2021)

The national average (FY2021) is not reported by Child Trends.

Multiple placements have major negative impacts on child well-being1

Why aren’t we hearing more about how poorly MA is performing on this critical measure and what the Commonwealth is doing to address it?

2nd HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-5Places-Reuni-B-31Oct2023

HIGHEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-5Places-Reuni-C-31Oct2023

3rd HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-5Places-Reuni-D-31Oct2023

HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2023-5Places-Reuni-E-31Oct2023

5+ Placements Exiting to Guardianship

Percent of Children Exiting to Guardianship With 5+ Placements

(FY2021)

The national average (FY2021) is not reported by Child Trends.

Multiple placements have major negative impacts on child well-being1

Why aren’t we hearing more about how poorly MA is performing on this critical measure and what the Commonwealth is doing to address it?

2nd HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-5Places-Guard-B-31Oct2023

2nd HIGHEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-5Places-Guard-C-31Oct2023

2nd HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-5Places-Guard-D-31Oct2023

HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2023-5Places-Guard-E-31Oct2023

5+ Placements Exiting to Adoption

Percent of Children Exiting to Adoption With 5+ Placements

(FY2021)

The national average (FY2021) is not reported by Child Trends.

Multiple placements have major negative impacts on child well-being1

Why aren’t we hearing more about how poorly MA is performing on this critical measure and what the Commonwealth is doing to address it?

HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-5Places-Adopt-B-31Oct2023

HIGHEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-5Places-Adopt-C-31Oct2023

HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-5Places-Adopt-D-31Oct2023

HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2023-5Places-Adopt-E-31Oct2023

Placed in Group Care

Percent of Children Placed in Group Care

(FY2021)

Is group care appropriate for all of these children?  Are there not enough less-restrictive options or services to keep kids at home?

HIGHER than the national average

DCF-2023-GroupCare-A-6Nov2023

HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-GroupCare-B-6Nov2023

HIGHEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-GroupCare-C-6Nov2023

HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-GroupCare-D-6Nov2023

2nd HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2023-GroupCare-E-6Nov2023

NO CHANGE in recent years

*DCF FY22 Annual Report. Sum of congregate & non-referral
*DCF FY22 Annual Report. Sum of congregate & non-referral

Adopted By Relatives

Percent of Children Adopted By Relatives

(FY2021)

Why is MA performing so poorly when DCF has been focused on kin placements?2

FAR BELOW the national average

DCF-2023-Relatives-A-6Nov2023

Tied for LOWEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-Relatives-B-6Nov2023

Tied for LOWEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-Relatives-C-6Nov2023

LOWEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-Relatives-D-6Nov2023

LOWEST among New England states

DCF-2023-Relatives-E-6Nov2023

NO CHANGE since 2015

*DCF Annual Report does not include this metric
*DCF Annual Report does not include this metric

Time in Foster Care Before Adoption

Length of Stay in Foster Care Before Adoption

(FY2021)

A significant part of a child’s life without a permanent family

LONGER than the national average

DCF-2023-Adopt-A-6Nov2023

2nd LONGEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-Adopt-B-6Nov2023

LONGEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-Adopt-C-6Nov2023

LONGEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-Adopt-D-6Nov2023

LONGEST among the New England states

DCF-2023-Adopt-E-6Nov2023

Significant INCREASE in 2021

*DCF Annual Report does not include this metric
*DCF Annual Report does not include this metric

Exiting Foster Care to Emancipation

Percent of Youth Exiting Foster Care to Emancipation3

(FY2021)

Aging out of care without permanence has lifelong consequences4

HIGHER than the national average

DCF-2023-Eman-A-6Nov2023

2nd HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2023-Eman-B-6Nov2023

HIGHEST compared to the poorest states

DCF-2023-Eman-C-6Nov2023

3rd HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2023-Eman-D-6Nov2023

HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2023-Eman-E-6Nov2023

Consistently HIGHER than the national average

*DCF Annual Report FY2022
*DCF Annual Report FY2022

Data Sources: Child Trends FY 2019, 2020, 2021 & MA DCF Annual Report FY2022
State rankings for most populated, wealthiest, and poorest (median income) from World Population Review

3 In child welfare emancipation means aging out at age 22, or before, and often after years of trauma, with no “forever” family or lifelong connections.
4 Think of Us “Away from Home" Report

Children In Foster Care 5+ Years

Percent of Children in Foster Care 5+ Years

(FY2020)

Child Trends FY2021 reporting has changed; see "5+ Placements" tabs.

A lifetime for a child…

HIGHER than the national average

DCF-2022-5Years-A-7Apr2022

Tied for 2nd HIGHEST compared to the most populated states

DCF-2022-5Years-B-7Apr2022

HIGHER than the poorest states

DCF-2022-5Years-C-7Apr2022

Tied for HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2022-5Years-D-7Apr2022

Tied for HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2022-5Years-E-7Apr2022

INCREASING in recent years

*DCF FY21 Annual Report does not include this metric
*DCF FY21 Annual Report does not include this metric

Four or more Foster Care Placements

Percent of Children with 4+ Foster Care Placements

(FY2020)

Child Trends FY2021 reporting has changed; see "5+ Placements" tabs.

Multiple placements have major negative impacts on child well-being1

MA has the worst performance of all states in comparisons on this critical measure.  Why aren’t we hearing more about this?

HIGHER than the national average

DCF-2022-Placements-A-7Apr2022

HIGHER than the most populated states

DCF-2022-Placements-B-7Apr2022

HIGHER than the poorest states

DCF-2022-Placements-C-7Apr2022

HIGHEST among the wealthiest states

DCF-2022-Placements-D-7Apr2022

HIGHEST among New England states

DCF-2022-Placements-E-7Apr2022

Consistently higher than the national average

*DCF FY21 annual Report does not include this metric
*DCF FY21 annual Report does not include this metric

MA Reports Measures of "Well-Being"…
The Results Speak for Themselves

DCF reported only  two “well-being” measures for children and youth in out-of-home placement in annual reports from 2019 through 2021:  (1) medical evaluations completed and timeliness, and (2) high school graduation rates. DCF’s Annual Report FY2022 includes three additional education well-being measures from the 2021-22 school year: (3) students with “high needs”, (4) school attendance rates, and (5) safety disciplinary action.

Medical Evaluations*

% of all medical visits completed** 51.3% 78.7% 82.7% 80.4% 78% 76.7%
% of medical visits completed in a timely manner** 29.2% 45.1% 49.1% 49.7% 44.2% 42.6%

*Baker administration reforms included the hiring of a full-time DCF Medical Director and Medical Social Workers for 29 DCF Area Offices.
**DCF Annual Report FY2022

Four-Year High School Graduation Rates*

≥67% 51.4% 57.3% 63.4% 55.6% 56.8% 50.6% 56.7% 89.8%

Other Education Well-Being Measures

Students with “High Needs”:  84.8% of children in DCF custody were identified as “high need”, in contrast to 56.2% of all MA students.

School Attendance Rates:  Children in DCF custody attended 86.8% of their enrolled school days, versus 91.5% for all MA students.

Safety Disciplinary Action:  Children in DCF custody had more in-school and out-of-school suspensions and emergency removals than all MA students.

The DCF Annual Report FY2022 does not include an analysis or indication of what DCF has learned from these well-being data points, nor any indication of what DCF is doing to address these poor results for children and youth in the custody of DCF.

A Chronicle of Systemic Failure

2014

APR 18, 2014

FOC-DCF-Icon-Triangle-Screen

Jerimiah Oliver, age 5, whose family was involved with Department of Children and Families, is found dead.

MAY 22, 2014

Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) Releases "Quality Improvement Report." This report served as a blueprint for the Baker Administration's 2015 reforms.

Detailed policy, procedure, and operational reform recommendations. Read the Report.

JUN 2014

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute releases: "If Not Now, When? A Call to Action for Systemic Child Welfare Reform in Massachusetts"

SEP 2014

The Boston Foundation releases "The Utility of Trouble From Crisis to Opportunity: Child Welfare Reform in Massachusetts"

2015

Governor Baker inaugurated (JAN 8, 2015)

Citizens for Juvenile Justice releases "Missed Opportunities, Preventing Youth in the Child Welfare System from entering the Juvenile Justice System" (2015)

JAN 13, 2015

The House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight and House Members of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities’ releases "Review of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families"

JAN 29, 2015

FOC-DCF-Icon-Federal-Screen

US Department of Justice and Health and Human Services issue joint letter of findings that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) discriminated against a parent in violation of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

Linda Spears appointed Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner (FEB 2015)

JUL 14, 2015

FOC-DCF-Icon-Triangle-Screen

Jack Loiselle, a boy who had been involved with DCF, is found beaten and starved in his father’s home.

AUG 15, 2015

FOC-DCF-Icon-Triangle-Screen

Avalena Conway-Coxon, age 2, died in a DCF foster home.

SEP 4, 2015

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases "Case Review: Jack Loiselle"

“DCF views the failure to protect Jack as an indication of systemic failures both internal and external to DCF.”

Maria Mossaides appointed as second Director of Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). (SEP 10, 2015)

SEP 21, 2015

FOC-DCF-Icon-Triangle-Screen

Baby Doe body identified as Bella Bond, age 2, whose family had a long history with Department of Children and Families (DCF)

SEP 28, 2015

Governor Baker, Frontline Child Protection Workers Announce Department of Children and Families (DCF) Reforms

"Systemic policy reforms are necessary...", Governor Baker states.

SEP 30, 2015

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases “Case Review: The Foster Home of Kimberly Malpass”

OCT 28, 2015

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Review of the Death of Bella Bond Report"

NOV 20, 2015

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Management Review of the Department of Children and Families, Final Report to the Legislature"

NOV 2015

Pioneer Institute releases "Driving Critical Reforms at DCF - Ideas for a Direction Forward in Massachusetts’ Child and Family Services"

2016

JAN 2016

FOC-DCF-Icon-Federal-Screen

Federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) 2015 released for state of MA.

MA Court Improvement Program (CIP) begins study of Education of Children and Youth in Foster Care in Massachusetts. (MAR 2016)

2017

JAN 2017

Friends of Children authors "Foster Care Review Office" bill filed in State House and Senate to create foster care review process independent of Department of Children and Families (DCF).

2017

Legislature creates the Task Force on Child Welfare Data Reporting

MA Court Improvement Program (CIP) report, "Designing Data Driven Directions for School Success of Students Involved in Child Welfare Proceedings" is completed, however official report was never released. (AUG 9, 2017)

Shows substantial disparities in school experiences of foster youth.

DEC 2017

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General Report: "Some Massachusetts Group Homes for Children in Foster Care Did Not Always Comply with State Health and Safety Requirements"

DEC 7, 2017

MA Office of the State Auditor releases "Audit Report, Department of Children and Families"

2018

JAN 2018

Boston Globe publishes "Child Protection Agency is Making Progress But Challenges Remain"

“analysis of key data points indicates the increased stability and resources haven’t yet led to significantly better outcomes for children”

Federal "Family First Act" signed into law (FEB 9, 2018)

Reforms and funding to keep children safely with their families and avoid foster care. Read the law

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Child Fatality Review Needs Assessment" (MAR 2018)

Citizens for Juvenile Justice release "Shutting Down the Trauma to Prison Pipeline: Early, Appropriate Care for Child-Welfare Involved Youth" (JUL 2018)

"Care and Protection of Walt", Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) unanimous decision (OCT 2018)

2019

Friends of Children revises Foster Care Review Office bill, filed for second time in State House and Senate to create foster care review process independent of DCF. (JAN 2019)

MAR 2019

MA Court Improvement Program (CIP) releases report “Stable Placement, Stable School: Improving Education Outcomes of Children in Foster Care in Massachusetts”

APR 6, 2019

Boston Globe publishes "In a broken foster system some kids can’t find a bed for the night."

“MA has one of the worst records nationally for providing stable placements for children in foster care”

APR 9, 2019

MassLive publishes, “There’s no way for us to learn how to live’: foster children who age out of care suffer later in life”.

APR 22, 2019

Boston Globe publishes "Mass foster care oversight plagued by conflict of interest, advocates say."

APR 23, 2019

MA Office of the State Auditor releases "Local Financial Impact Review: Educational Services for Students in Foster Care and State Care"

APR 23, 2019

Boston Globe reports "Auditor concerned that communication issues hurt foster children’s education"

MAY 14, 2019

Boston Globe publishes "Baker administration pledges major reforms for troubled foster care system"

MAY 16, 2019

MA Office of the State Auditor releases "Audit of the Office of the Child Advocate"

JUN 30, 2019

Department of Children and Families (DCF) Child and Family Services Plan 2015-2019 Final Report to the federal government

JUL 29, 2019

Boston Globe publishes "Child deaths under state’s watch fall, but new data raises more questions."

DEC 6, 2019

Children’s Rights posts links to the six-part series in the Kansas City Star that provides an in-depth look into our nation’s foster care system. “The Star’s series is required reading for anyone who cares about the nation’s broken, overwhelmed child welfare system”.

DEC 30, 2019

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases "Annual Report FY2019"

2020

JAN 3, 2020

Boston Globe publishes "An Innovative report takes a look at the Department of Children and Families, and finds stubborn problems. "

JAN 11, 2020

Mass Live publishes "House Speaker to meet with lawmakers examining foster care system after death of Whitman 2-year-old"

MAR 10, 2020

Gov. Baker declares state of emergency. Global pandemic shuts down the world. Raises immediate concerns for children and families involved with Department of Children and Families (DCF).

JUL 2020

FOC-DCF-Icon-Federal-Screen

Federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Round 3 State-by-state performance data and national performance comparisons.

MA DCF does worse than national performance on 6 of 7 metrics.

AUG 15, 2020

Boston Globe publishes “Your child’s a no-show at virtual school? You may get a call from the State’s child welfare agency”

AUG 16, 2020

Boston Globe publishes Friends of Children Letter to the Editor regarding the need for transparency and access to child welfare data and information.

SEP 2020

Task Force on Child Welfare Data Reporting begins posting notice of meetings, meeting agenda, and minutes for Task Force quarterly meetings on the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) website. Advocates and other citizens began attending the Task Force Meetings as “members of the public.”

OCT 1, 2020

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases "Annual Report FY2020"

OCT 2020

Department of Children and Families (DCF) Releases "Foster Care Review Report FY2020"

OCT 21, 2020

FOC-DCF-Icon-Triangle-Screen

David Almond, age 14, died seven months after DCF returned him to his father’s home.

NOV 18, 2020

Commonwealth Magazine publishes “Death of Fall River boy puts DCF in spotlight again.”

NOV 20, 2020

FOC-DCF-Icon-Federal-Screen

Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Department of Children and Families (DCF) reach agreement in 2015 findings of DCF violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the US Rehabilitation Act.

NOV 20, 2020

Boston Globe publishes "MA DCF repeatedly discriminated against parents with disabilities, federal officials find"

DEC 2020

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Mandated Reporter Commission Status Report to the Legislature"

DEC 2020

Despite efforts and bills filed in both the House and Senate, the MA Legislature does not pass a comprehensive child welfare bill.

2021

JAN 2021

Massachusetts Appleseed releases “Families Torn Apart: Language based discrimination at the MA DCF."

JAN 2021

Friends of Children's Foster Care Review Office bill filed for third time in State House and Senate to create foster care review process independent of Department of Children and Families (DCF).

JAN 26, 2021

Commonwealth Magazine publishes "Report slams DCF for lack of language services"

FEB 21, 2021

Commonwealth Magazine publishes "Why are Latinos so overrepresented in the state child welfare system?"

U.S. Department of Human Services, Office of Inspector General publishes, “ACF cannot ensure that all child victims of abuse and neglect have court representation” (ACF is the U.S. Administration for Children and Families). (March 2021)

MAR 2, 2021

Children’s Rights publishes, “Families Over Facilities: Ending the Use of Harmful and Unnecessary Institutions and Other Group Facilities in Child Welfare Systems”.

MAR 22 – APR 21, 2021

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) posts "Mandated Reporter* Commission Report" Seeking Public Comment

MAR 31, 2021

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Investigative Report: A Multi-System Investigation into the Death of David Almond”

A scathing report of systemic operational dysfunction. Read the report.

APR 4, 2021

Mass Live publishes "From Jeremiah Oliver to David Almond: How the MA Department of Children and Families responded in the wake of children’s deaths"

APR 5, 2021

Boston Globe publishes “A year into the pandemic, DCF workers visiting only about half of children in person”

APR 13 & 17, 2021

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Mandated* Reporter Commission holds public hearings seeking public comment on the Report

* A “mandated reporter” is a person, from a profession-specific list of people, required by law to report to DCF if they have reasonable cause to believe a child/youth is abused or neglected.

MAY 4, 2021

Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities holds "Oversight Hearing on the OCA Investigative Report" (David Almond)

MAY 4, 2021

Mass Live publishes “Amid legislation probe into David Almond’s death, Baker administration announces social work improvements.”

MAY 6, 2021

Mass Live publishes “After David Almond’s death, Massachusetts House, Senate disagree on how to advance DCF reforms”

MAY 2021

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "FY2020 Annual Report"

JUN 9, 2021

Boston Globe publishes “They already had the air mattress’: Facing fewer options, DCF has planned for kids to sleep in the office”.

JUN 15, 2021

The Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities holds a “Foster Care” hearing.

JUN 30, 2021

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) submits the "Mandated Reporter Commission Final Report to the Legislature." Sixteen months after its establishment by the Legislature, the Commission, in a 93-page report, made no recommendations.

JULY 2021

Think of Us, a national nonprofit research and development lab for child welfare, releases "Away From Home, Youth Experiences of Institutional Placements in Foster Care."

JUL 7, 2021

The Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities holds a “Disproportionality and Foster Care” hearing.

JUL 14, 2021

FOC-DCF-Icon-Federal-Screen

Lawyers for Civil Rights and the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice filed a federal complaint against the MA Department of Children and Families (DCF).

JUL 16, 2021

Governor Baker signs MA fiscal year 2021 budget that includes a racial impact statement for Department of Children and Families (DCF) reforms (section 2, item 4800-0038).

JUL 29, 2021

Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth publishes “LGBTQ Youth in the Massachusetts Child Welfare System, A Report on Pervasive Threats to Safety, Well-being and Permanency”.

UMass Medical School Communications publishes “Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma launched. MA Office of the Child Advocate and UMass Chan Medical School will work with state systems to reduce trauma infliction and support children’s healing” (Oct 21, 2021)

OCT 26, 2021

“Following the one-year anniversary of the death of David Almond, what has changed?”, an opinion piece written by Representative Farley-Bouvier and Senator Comerford, sponsors of the Foster Care Review Office legislation.

Read the article in:  MassLive!  &  Commonwealth Magazine

NOV 9, 2021

New England Public Media publishes “Massachusetts foster families say DCF often separates siblings, despite its own stated priorities”.

DEC 2021

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases "Annual Report FY2021"

December 2021, Family Justice Initiative publishes: “Improving the Lives of Children and Families through High-Quality Lawyering;" and, “Attributes of High-Quality Legal Representation for Children and Parents in Child Welfare Proceedings.”

DEC 10, 2021

Commonwealth Magazine publishes “Only half of foster children graduated on time last year”

DEC 25, 2021

Boston Herald publishes “Hundreds of children go missing from Massachusetts DCF custody each year, records show, 858 children went missing in 2019”

DEC 27, 2021

Boston Globe publishes letter “Child advocate’s alarm over R.I. system should stir Mass to take a hard look at DCF”

Boston Globe publishes letter “DCF needs family input” from Tatiana Rodriquez, of Family Matters of Boston and Worcester and Susan Elsen of MA Law Reform Institute. (Dec 28, 2021)

2022

Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held 11 additional public hearings between September 2021 and January 2022 to review bills affecting child welfare and other Committee areas of responsibility. (Jan 2022)

JAN 2022

FOC-DCF-Icon-Triangle-Screen

The public learns of the disappearance of seven-year-old Harmony Montgomery–and that the child welfare systems in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have been involved.

National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) publishes updated "Recommendations for Legal Representation of Children and Youth in Neglect and Abuse Proceedings" (Jan 10, 2022)

Commonwealth Magazine publishes “Can a parent’s right to a child be terminated via zoom? High court to consider virtual hearings in child custody cases”. (Jan 30, 2022)

FEB 3, 2022

Film premiere of “Family Fractured” documentary created by The Family Project, a collaboration between Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Northeastern University School of Journalism, & Northeastern University’s Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline Project.

FEB 18, 2022

MA Administration Press Release: “Baker-Polito Administration Files Fiscal Year 2022 Supplemental Budget”.

FEB 22, 2022

TuftsNow publishes “Child Abuse Actually Decreased During COVID. Here’s Why”.

MAR 2022

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Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Investigation Status Report, Regarding the Multi-System Investigation into the Death of David Almond"

MAR 2022

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Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases "Annual Report FY2021"

Boston Globe publishes Friends of Children letter, “Another child tragedy, another case of the state reacting without thinking”, regarding the Governor’s Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) proposal. (March 13, 2022)

The Nation publishes “How Covid Revealed the Folly of Our Child Protection System” by Dorothy Roberts (April 29, 2022)

Commonwealth Magazine publishes opinion “Baker proposal for guardians ad litem will only worsen child welfare system” by Michael Dsida, Deputy Chief Counsel, Children and Family Law Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and Leon Smith, Executive Director, Citizens for Juvenile Justice. (April 29, 2022)

MAY 2022

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases “Investigative Report, A Multi System Investigation of Harmony Montgomery”. Harmony is a four-year-old who went missing in 2020 after involvement with the MA and NH child welfare systems.

Boston Globe publishes “Harmony Montgomery’s safety and well-being not given priority, Mass. Report finds” (May 4, 2022)

Washington Post publishes “Child-welfare “failed” missing 7-year-old, state says” (MAY 4, 2022)

MAY 2022

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases “Foster Care Review Report FY2021.”

Commonwealth Magazine publishes “Report says DCF needs to incorporate family input into policies.” (May 5, 2022)

Mass Live publishes “Recommendations after Harmony Montgomery case similar to those of David Almond, Bella Bond, and others; state looks to implement new tools by 2023.” (May 8, 2022)

MAY 9, 2022

Mass Law Reform Institute publishes “Family Voices, insight about prevention services from families and youth directly affected by the Massachusetts child welfare system, and a call to partner with families and youth with lived experience for prevention services planning.”

Gloucester Daily Times publishes editorial “Our view: Massachusetts continues to fail its children.” (MAY 9, 2022)

Commonwealth Magazine publishes, “Budget amendment would create Harmony Montgomery Commission” (MAY 12, 2022)

MAY, 2022

iFoster publishes, “Voice of the Foster Care Community, Children in Foster Care, Caregivers, and Front-Line Child Welfare Workers Speak Out”.

Boston Globe publishes, “Communication 101: Closing the Language Barrier in State Agencies”. A “horrific” DCF case is used to demonstrate “inconsistent and more than often substandard language access practices across state government agencies”. (MAY 23, 2022)

The Hill publishes “What rights do U.S. children have? None.” (JUN 11, 2022)

The U.S. stands out in its unwillingness to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); this treaty (1989) has been ratified by 196 other countries.

Read the article

JUN 15, 2022

MA Commission on LGBTQ Youth publishes “Report and Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2022 (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022). The Report includes recommendations in key areas, with specific recommendations for state agencies including DCF.

NBC News publishes, “Most missing foster kids in four major states weren’t screened to see whether they’ve been sex trafficked, says watchdog”. (JUL 7, 2022)

Massachusetts is one of the four states.

Read the article | See the U.S. Office of Inspector General report 

25 News publishes “25 Investigates: Lawmakers put the brakes on proposed Harmony Montgomery Commission” (JUL 19, 2022)

AUG 10, 2022

Governor Baker signs into law, “An Act addressing barriers to care for mental health” a comprehensive mental and behavioral health reform bill addressing the structure and delivery of mental health services to MA residents.

Mother Jones publishes, “Inside Massachusetts’ Family Separation Disaster” (SEP 26, 2022)

NBC News publishes: “Mandatory reporting was supposed to stop severe child abuse. It punishes poor families instead”. (OCT 12, 2022)

NBC News publishes “This state’s foster care population has dropped by a third since 2019. What happened?” (OCT 13, 2022)

Boston Globe publishes, “With few options, DCF has had children sleep overnight in its offices at times, workers say”. (OCT 19, 2022)

NBC10 Boston publishes, “Taken & Traumatized: Lawmakers Propose More Oversight Before DCF Can Take Kids in Middle of the Night” (NOV 19, 2022)

25 News publishes, “Thousands of Mass kids spending most of their young lives in limbo with DCF” (NOV 22, 2022)

CBS News Sunday Morning publishes “Fostering Tragedy: Experts say system designed to protect children can break up families.” (DEC 4, 2022)

The Eagle Tribune publishes “Commentary: Child welfare system needs an overhaul”. Hina Naved, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. (DEC 4, 2022)

The Boston Globe publishes “They brought their sick baby to the hospital, three days later, the state took their kids away” by Caitlin Gibson of The Washington Post. (DEC 7, 2022)

DEC 2022

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases “Annual Report FY2022"

DEC 2022

Department of Children and Families (DCF) releases “Foster Care Review Report FY2022”.

DEC 2022

FOC-DCF-Icon-OCA-Screen

Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases “Task Force on Child Welfare Data Reporting, Final Report”, including, “Minority Report: Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Committee for Public Counsel Services”.

DEC 12, 2022

The Trevor Project publishes 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health by State. The report states “53% of LGBTQ youth in MA who wanted mental health care in the past year were unable to get it”.

2023

JAN 5, 2023

On the last day of the 2021-2022 session the Legislature passed the “Act Establishing a Foster Parent Bill of Rights”.

The Boston Globe publishes “State legal aid agency seeks more oversight when DCF removes children from homes without court order” (JAN 17, 2023)

JAN 31, 2023

Pittsburgh AP (supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting) publishes, “Child welfare algorithm faces Justice Department scrutiny”.

Commonwealth Magazine publishes “The state child welfare system needs an overhaul, not more band-aids. Let’s transform it to be a “child and family well being system”. (FEB 8, 2023)

Boston Globe publishes “A 15-year-old stayed in a hospital for 40 days. The reason? The state child welfare agency had no place to put him. Massachusetts child welfare agency has been stranding healthy kids in hospitals due to a lack of options.” (FEB 11, 2023)

Boston Globe Opinion publishes, “I am a survivor of the child welfare system. Family surveillance is not the solution to poverty”. (MAR 20, 2023)

FEB 2023

Citizens for Juvenile Justice publishes “Educational Experiences of Massachusetts Foster Youth”.

APR 2023

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Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) releases “Office of the Child Advocate Annual Report FY2022".

APR 7, 2023

Boston 25 News posts “25 Investigates: Foster mom claims DCF disregarding concerns of child in her care”.

Boston Globe publishes "When the system to protect children itself abuses families”. (MAY 3, 2023)

MAY 30, 2023

MA Suffolk Superior Court Judge Katie C. Rayburn ruled that DCF violated a mother’s due process rights due to the lack of a “meaningful repeals process” with a DCF determination of ‘substantiated concern’ made regarding an allegation of neglect regarding her son.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) publishes a study in Maternal and Child Health Journal (2023), “Prescribed and Penalized: The Detrimental Impact of Mandated Reporting for Prenatal Utilization of Medication for Opioid Use Disorder”. (MAY 31, 2023)

JUN 14, 2023

Boston Globe publishes, “Six years sober, she was still reported for child abuse for taking addiction medication. Is it time to change the rules?”

JUN 29, 2023

Reveal, The Center for Investigative Reporting, publishes, “A mother’s worst nightmare. Federal law has put thousands of women on anti-addiction medication like Suboxone, into an impossible bind: give up your treatment or risk losing your child”.

JUL 11, 2023

Boston Globe publishes “Mass. has long collected federal benefits meant for children in its care. Some lawmakers want to change that”.

JUL 19, 2023

New England Public Media publishes, “They don’t know what their rights are: W. Mass project helps parents keep custody of their kids”.

AUG 7, 2023

GBH publishes “Former public safety secretary “shocked” by reports that DCF puts foster youth’s funds into state coffers”.

AUG 11, 2023

Boston Globe publishes “State reaches $7 million settlement with four victims of foster parents who oversaw Oxford ‘House of Horrors”.

AUG 23, 2023

Boston Globe Editorial Board publishes “Parents tagged by DCF policy should be allowed to appeal”.

AUG 29, 2023

Boston Globe publishes, “DCF using apartments as short-term housing for foster children”.

SEP 9, 2023

Boston Globe publishes, “After a domestic assault, many victims can find themselves blamed by Mass. child welfare”.

OCT 2, 2023

Commonwealth Beacon publishes “Open the doors to closed juvenile sessions. We can have transparency while also protecting confidentiality”

OCT 10, 2023

Boston Globe publishes “Legislators call for more oversight of Mass. child welfare system in a series of bills”.

NOV 2, 2023

WWLP posts “Former Massachusetts foster kids lay out child welfare vision”.

TODAY

The same problems exist that were supposed to be addressed by the 2015, 2019 and 2021 reforms. We welcome a new Administration in 2023 that has the opportunity to change the reality for thousands of vulnerable Massachusetts children and families.

Dare we imagine a day when thousands of kids in a child and family well-being system in Massachusetts look back and remember a time when life got better, when the system improved their situations?

We must.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts must acknowledge two things: 

  1. The approaches taken since 2015 and before are not improving outcomes for children and families involved with the MA child-welfare system.  MA must take action to address, and reduce the harms inflicted on children, young people, and families; and
  2. The child-welfare system in our state is broken and requires thoughtful and informed redesign, not more attempts at repair. 

We must do better. Our children deserve no less.

Here's How You Can Help

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Children sitting on floor

The data and timeline you’ve just read lay bare a system that should and could be doing a better job. Behind the numbers are real children and young adults—their hopes, their dreams, their futures. Now that you’ve seen for yourself how poorly the child welfare system in Massachusetts is performing compared to most other states in our nation, you may be questioning long-held assumptions. Or you may feel reaffirmed in your sense that something here has been very wrong for a long time.

Our kids need you. 

If each of us does our part, together, we can change this system for the better.

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Together, we can improve accountability, oversight, and transparency in our child welfare system.