Mass. Child Welfare Agency On The Mend, But Big Challenges Remain

At the State House this week, the interim head of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families appeared before an oversight committee. DCF has faced renewed scrutiny since the agency lost track of five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, who was later found dead.

Erin Deveney took over the department two months ago. She says the number of cases on each social worker’s desk remains too high. DCF has hired hundreds more social workers, but many others are leaving. This comes as the department has seen a spike in the number of suspected abuse and neglect cases. Deveney says that’s actually a sign of something good.

Among the lawmakers tasked with keeping an eye on Deveney is Pittsfield Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier. One of her major concerns is the challenge DCF has when it serves children in rural communities, including the distances social workers have to travel between family visits.