Gov. Baker announces completed reforms made to DCF

Governor Charlie Baker announced on Monday that a significant number of Department of Children and Families reforms are complete. 

DCF now has five major new policies, including putting at-risk kids on the same investigation track and the first-ever medical director. 

In addition, Criminal Offender Record Information and Sexual Offender Record Information checks are now required on all relevant people in a household. 

DCF workers also now review 911 call history and responses for new homes. 

The foster care application backlog has been reduced and 170 new full time employees have been hired. 

“Last fall we pledged, with union leadership, to better support our social workers who are on the front lines every day and reform a broken system of policies,” Baker said. “Today, while we still have more work to do to improve how the Commonwealth cares for the most vulnerable children, the Department of Children and Families is making robust strides in their mission to keep kids safe. My administration will continue to invest in frontline workers and continue to reform this critical department.”  

Baker has budgeted $938.2 million to DCF for Fiscal Year 2017, a $30.5 million increase from Fiscal Year 2016. 

Progress Over The Last 6 Months for DCF in Partnership with SEIU Local 509:

  • Overhauled the Department’s intake policy, putting all screened-in reports of abuse and neglect (51A) on one investigation track instead of two. 
    • Requires Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI), Sexual Offender Record Information (SORI), and national criminal history database checks for parents, caregivers and all household members over 15 years old. This is for 100 percent of cases.
    • Workers now request 911 call history and police response to the residence of any child or family involved in a report of abuse or neglect. The Department is now working with law enforcement. 
    • All screened-in reports – those that require investigations to be opened – are assigned to an Investigation Trained Response Worker. 
    • The revised policy puts decision-making at the appropriate level of intervention. 
    • For the first time, this policy enables Response Workers to search online sources of information to assess child safety.
    • Mandates use of the Department’s Risk Assessment Tool to better identify and assess potential future risks to the child’s safety.
  • Created the first Supervisor Policy in DCF history to provide training, supervision and review of all complex cases. 
  • Trained over 1,700 staff and implemented the Department’s new protective intake and supervision policies.
  • Negotiated three additional policies that will be implemented later this year: The Family Assessment and Action Planning Policy reinforcing the requirement for family assessment and action planning which will be updated every six months; In-Home Case Practice Policy to ensure regular visits to the child; and the Case Closing Policy, which lays out the process and criteria for closing a case. Training for the newest policies is in development and will begin in late spring and early summer. 

Staff Recruitment and Retention:

  • Increased the number of licensed social workers to 91% compared to 54% in October 2014.
  •  With SEIU Local 509, convened a work group to develop social worker retention strategies, which has been meeting regularly.
  •  Since the start of the FY 2016, the Department has had a NET increase of 170 Full Time Employees (FTEs).
  •  332 positions have been posted for social workers, social work supervisors, medical social workers, managers, clerical staff and attorneys. 

Other Completed Reforms:

  • In January, DCF reestablished the Central Massachusetts Regional Office, allowing for greater oversight and managerial capacity. This moved the Department closer to a manager-to-supervisor ratio of 4:1.
  •  Reduced 75 percent of backlog for Foster Home Applications. The Department will be working to increase the number of foster homes. 
  • Closed 680 fair hearing cases in the months of December, January and February with the support of two newly hired hearing officers and nine newly hired paralegals.
  • Hired the Department’s first ever full-time Medical Director, Dr. Linda Sagor, to provide oversight of the medical needs of children in foster care; to ensure DCF meets its requirements for 7- and 30-day initial medical screens; and to offer expert consultation on medically complex cases. 
  • Planned IT modifications to incorporate new policies into the FamilyNet System. 
  • Launched a significant technology upgrade to support changes in the new supervision policy and protective intake policy that include the ability to track substance misuse in families.

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