Recent reports surrounding the care, or lack thereof, of children in the state's Department of Children and Families, have been disheartening. The department has lost a child, now thought to be dead, and has failed the over 100 children now missing and assumed to be runaways.
And that's only the tip of the iceburg.
We agree with Rep. Sheila Harrington who is calling for extensive reform of this department.
Harrington has filed a bill entitled "An Act Relative to the Best Interests of Children." The legislation "revolutionizes the way the DCF handles matters of parental suitability and custody by changing the goal of DCF policy to be to act in the best interest of the needs of the child, rather than the current objective, which is to keep a child with his or her family, even if it is to the child's detriment."
"After hearing extensive testimony about the negligent missteps of the DCF in my position on the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight," Harrington said, "it has become clear to me that the DCF has demonstrated a systemic failure in their management of cases involving at-risk children in the Commonwealth. Although the goal of strengthening the family unit is admirable, and usually preferable, it should not take precedent over the child's wellbeing."
Chapter 119, Section 1 of Massachusetts General Laws currently reads: "It is hereby declared to be the policy of this commonwealth to direct its efforts, first, to the strengthening and encouragement of family life for the care and protection of children..."
Harrington believes this is an insufficient, outdated standard that values the concept of family unity over that of the safety and wellbeing of the child. We agree.
Massachusetts is known for taking stands on behalf of our most vulnerable populations.
Our current failing grade at the DCF is shameful.