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 best interests 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 annually takes custody of approximately 15,000 children and young adults1, 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 Foster Care Review Report FY2020

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.88, H.211: An Act Establishing The Massachusetts Foster Care Review Office

Read the latest

The Foster Care Review Office bill was heard at a Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Foster Care hearing on June 15, 2021.  Senator Comerford and Representative Farley-Bouvier, bill sponsors, introduced the bills.  Friends of Children coordinated testimony in support of the bills from 19 individuals including foster care alum, an adoptive parent, child welfare advocates, an attorney who represents children/families, health care professionals and three MA District Attorneys.  

There was no oral testimony in opposition to independent foster care review.

The Joint Committee will vote on bills reviewed at the hearing at some point in this Legislative session.

Access the hearing agenda and webcast here

Read Friends of Children hearing testimony here

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Failing Our Kids

Measures of the Broken Child Welfare System in Massachusetts