Mass. schools superintendent critical of DCF

NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is facing more criticism, this time from the Northbridge superintendent of schools.

The child welfare agency has come under fire for alleged negligence in the disappearance of a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy, who hasn't been seen since September and is presumed dead. Three workers at the agency's Leominster office were fired, while the boy's mother and her boyfriend are facing charges.

Northbridge Superintendent Nancy Spitulnik sent a letter to DCF Commissioner Olga Roche last month highlighting what she sees as problems at the agency's Whitinsville office, including failing to respond to school officials' concerns about the well-being of some children.

Spitulnik said in her letter that social workers and supervisors in the Whitinsville office refused to accept an alleged abuse or neglect filing when a student had missed more than 75 days of school; regularly closed serious cases because parents refused to cooperate; failed to follow up with a homeless student; breached confidentiality in telling a parent which school staff member filed a abuse or neglect report, leading to threats and harassment; and waited until 13 such filings had been filed in one year before a student was removed from the home, according to The Telegram & Gazette.

The Northbridge School District serves approximately 2,600 students.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, is calling for an investigation into Spitulnik's concerns and said in a statement Monday that he wants a thorough, independent review of DCF.

A DCF spokeswoman says Roche will meet with the Northbridge superintendent about her concerns.