Oversight: Reforming Foster-Care Review Through Independence from the Department of Children and Families (DCF)

The federal government requires all states that receive federal foster-care funding to review the permanency plans of each child, youth, or young adult in foster care every six months to evaluate that young person’s safety, well-being, and progress towards permanency.

The consequences of these reviews can be life-altering. 

In most states, this review is the responsibility of an entity and staff that are independent from the state’s child-welfare agency (DCF equivalent). In Massachusetts, however, foster-care review is currently an internal department within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) with staff who are DCF employees, most of whom have worked in other capacities at DCF prior to joining the Foster Care Review Unit—a situation that leads to a disturbing lack of external oversight and obvious conflicts of interest.

An independent foster-care review process would provide an opportunity to objectively assess, report, and make recommendations to all relevant stakeholders regarding the safety and well-being of children and families in the child-welfare system.

An independent foster care review process would establish checks and balances on the child welfare system, a system that saw 13,045 unique children, youth, and young adults in out-of-home care during FY20221, to monitor outcomes on individual children, ensure transparency through required reporting of aggregate data, and force accountability.

Given the potential impact of foster-care reviews on the lives of children and young adults in foster care, they deserve independent oversight—and they deserve assurances that the Commonwealth, which has legally assumed responsibility for parenting them, is taking their well-being seriously.

1 DCF Annual Report FY2022

Friends of Children has been leading the way in Massachusetts since 2016 to create an independent, external office for foster care review.

Learn more about reforming foster-care review and the state legislation we’ve helped introduce:

Fact Sheet

An Act Establishing The Massachusetts Foster Care Review Office

Frequently Asked Questions

An Act Establishing The Massachusetts Foster Care Review Office

Proposed Legislation

S.66, H.158 (2023-24 legislative session): An Act Establishing The Massachusetts Foster Care Review Office

Read the latest

The foster care review bills were filed for the fourth time, January 2023, by lead sponsors Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier.  

The lead sponsors will reach out to other Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor the legislation and we will work to get other advocates and child serving organizations to endorse it.  Additionally, we expect the legislative committee that the bill is assigned to, to hold a public hearing this year. We will be looking for supporters of the bill, both advocates and people with lived expertise, to provide written and/or oral testimony.  

Access the 2021 hearing agenda and webcast here

Read Friends of Children 2021 hearing testimony here

Read Children’s League of Massachusetts’ 2021 testimony here.

Take Action!

Find your Senator and Representative and ask them to co-sponsor the 2023/24 Foster Care Review Office bill (S.66, H.158).

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