Thursday, August 6, 2015

MASSACHUSETTS: Baker may need to speed up approach on DCF reform

Baker may need to speed up approach on DCF reform | Boston Herald

On the campaign trail, Gov. Charlie Baker once slammed then-Gov. Deval Patrick for being “slow, if not resistant” to acknowledge widespread dysfunction inside the Department of Children and Families.
Following the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, Patrick ordered an in-house review — but also backed his embattled commissioner and agency.
“If there is a systemic issue in this or any other case, I’m the first one who’s interested in it because it’s my job to deal with systemic issues,” Patrick said weeks after DCF launched a review of 40,000-plus cases. “But I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet.”
Within a week, public pressure pushed Patrick to order an outside probe, which eventually found those “systemic issues.”
Now in the Corner Office, Baker appears to be handling his first DCF crisis the same way he did other headline-grabbing problems: Review first, take a stand later.
Baker has called for commissions, ordered reports and postponed taking action until the problem was too big to ignore — the winter transit collapse — or gone before he had to say where he stood — the 2024 Summer Games.
But DCF, like the T, is Baker’s problem now, especially after a Herald report detailed how school officials alerted­ the child welfare agency to concerns about a 7-year-old Hardwick boy who was later­ found beaten and starved.
Caught in a media scrum yesterday, Baker said he didn’t want to address the case’s developments “piecemeal.” He said he wants a report first, this one expected by Sept. 24. “I want to see the facts.”
It remains to be seen if this DCF firestorm reaches the same level as the one that engulfed Patrick’s final years. But if questions continue to swirl without answers, Baker — once on the outside calling for quicker action — could be facing a test of his more measured approach.

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