Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Massachusetts Hates Children

That is the only explanation for this:

"Strains grow for DCF workers; Survey finds many feel hampered by heavy caseloads, rundown offices" by Michael Levenson, Globe Staff  March 31, 2015

Workers at the state’s beleaguered child-welfare agency contend with decrepit working conditions and an overload of cases, eroding morale and leaving some workers with traumatic levels of stress, according a survey of more than 1,500 employees.

One worker described cockroaches in the Leominster office scurrying across the same floor that babies crawl on during supervised visits with their parents. The office walls are “punched through, and the social workers sit in closets,” the worker wrote. “Shameful.”

A lawyer with the state Department of Children and Families said the agency’s attorneys, who are responsible for cases involving abuse, neglect, and the removal of children from their homes, are each saddled with 100 cases on average, instead of the 60 recommended by the American Bar Association.

Speaking of cockroaches (with all due respect to the roaches), that's the way Deval left them, huh? 

And it wasn't just him; the state legislature is just as complicit in all this -- as they toss millions upon millions at Hollywood, pharmaceuticals, the war machine, and any other agenda-pu$hing, well-connected concern.

“We absolutely do not give the attention to each case that we should,” the lawyer reported. “We feel that we are violating ethical practices and delivering poor quality every day, because it is impossible to work up to standard with our excessive case loads.”

None of this touches the political cla$$ of this state.

Morale in the workforce was “much worse” in December 2014 than in the previous year, according to those surveyed.

So it is getting worse, huh?

The confidential survey of 1,558 employees at the Department of Children and Families was conducted in December by the Office of the Child Advocate, an independent agency that monitors DCF.

The study was commissioned by the Legislature and released Tuesday, after the responses were analyzed and compiled by the Moakley Center for Public Management at Suffolk University.

While some of the problems, such as heavy caseloads, have been documented in other official reports, this one was striking for including the unvarnished voices of social workers and managers who vividly described barriers to their mission of protecting more than 35,000 children in some of the most unstable families in Massachusetts.

“DCF employees have spoken, and we must listen,” said Gail Garinger, who heads the Office of the Child Advocate. “It is urgent that we reduce case-loads to 15 families per [social] worker and retain experienced supervisors and managers. We have made progress in the last year, but not enough. A sustained commitment over a period of years is vital.”

Patrick left us with a $2 billion dollar hole, did I mention that?

Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services, said the Baker administration is committed to fixing the problems detailed in the survey.

“It’s our obligation to listen very carefully to what the staff has to say, and to respond accordingly,” she said.

I'm not blaming them. They just got here and have to be horrified at what they have found.

Sudders said about a third of the department’s 29 area offices have recently been renovated or relocated, but she has ordered officials to inspect the remaining two-thirds to see if they need pest removal, painting, or new furniture.

Confronting the larger problem of overloaded staff, she said the administration is working to reduce caseloads, although she offered no timeline.

The workers said they are struggling to handle an influx of cases and a wave of new rules sparked by several scandals over the last two years, including the death of a 5-year-old boy on the department’s watch.

“In my 20-plus years of DCF, this has been the most stressful, trying time I’ve ever experienced,” one worker wrote.

“Services for families are wait-listed or nonexistent. It is a challenge to stay positive and encouraging others to do so as well in this current work environment.” 

Services are nonexistent, huh? 

Where did all the tax loot go?

The report did not make clear whether the poor conditions were limited to a few offices. But one worker described an office with “water damage, gas odor, ventilation problems, mice, and fleas.”

Another worker complained that toilets are often clogged, gas leaks are common, and computers and phone lines often break down. “It is a total nightmare and counterproductive in every way imaginable,” the worker wrote.

I think I would quit under those conditions.

The employees said the biggest problem they face is heavy caseloads.

“DCF continues to fail completely at bringing down case-loads, the levels of which make it impossible to do the quality of social work that my coworkers and I would like to be able to do,” one worker wrote. “Most of the time I find myself struggling to keep up with the tasks required in responding to emergencies that might have been preventable if I had had more time to spend directly with parents and children.”

I know the feeling.

Another worker said there is no recognition for a job well done. “This year we did not even have our annual Thanksgiving meal at the office,” the worker wrote. “There was no mention of why not.”

Aside from the meal, I can see that. Everyone wants to be told good job, keep it up.

About 59 percent of those surveyed said they want training in how to handle traumatic stress.

“The atmosphere is fear-driven, and people here suffer from PTSD for fear that something bad could happen on our caseloads,” one of the workers wrote.

And this is in MASSACHUSETTS!

In addition to heavy workloads, basic technical frustrations were cited. Even though the department recently handed out 2,400 iPads to its workers, about 85 percent of those surveyed said the new tool they need most is a DCF-issued cellphone.

I'm wondering who won the contract for those.

The workers said they worry about the expense and loss of privacy when using their personal cellphones to stay in touch with families.

What? Worry about privacy in AmeriKa, where the NSA is sucking up all communications (including H. Clinton's e-mails!).

“The number one complaint that I receive from clients and/or providers is that I cannot be reached outside the office,” one worker wrote.

Sudders said she would see if money is available in the state budget to buy cellphones, calling it a “small, but significant” upgrade for employees.

The survey included a few positive findings.

(Blog editor shakes his head)

Most workers said they have a respectful relationship with their supervisors, know what is expected of them, feel their colleagues are committed to quality work, and believe the agency’s mission makes their job important.

The employees said they remain at DCF because they want to help children, like their colleagues, and appreciate the salary and benefits.

But they said they did not believe the agency was committed to employee satisfaction and did not believe that management would listen to, and act upon, the results of the survey.

You will find that in any AmeriKan institution.

“I’ve never seen so many seasoned workers this unhappy with our job in all my years here,” one worker reported. “If people had other opportunities with equal pay, most would leave, despite having passion for child protection work.”

I was told public servants needed more pay because they could easily leave for the private sector! WTF?!!!!


Who is at the helm now?

"New DCF chief remains stymied by lack of funds; Now at helm, activist finds limits" by Michael Levenson, Globe Staff  March 19, 2015

Last year, as an advocate scrutinizing Massachusetts’ child welfare agency, Linda S. Spears made a series of sweeping recommendations to rescue the agency from a string of scandals, including the death of a 5-year-old boy on the department’s watch.

Now, as it turns out, Spears herself is the one trying to put her plan into action.

And the newly appointed commissioner of the Department of Children and Families is discovering just how challenging it is to turn lofty goals into reality.

Spears said she does not have the money, in the midst of a budget crunch, to act on some of the recommendations she made in a report just a year ago.

I feel sorry for the new team, and I'll bet Coakley is glad she lost.


Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed 3 percent budget increase for the upcoming fiscal year will allow the department to fill vacancies, Spears said, but will not allow her to hire additional social workers, who are currently handling more cases than she recommended in her report. And Baker’s proposal to trim 4,500 workers from the state payroll through early retirement incentives could encourage veteran managers to leave. That could exacerbate a recent exodus of staff but could also allow Spears to hire some of her own managers. 

Well, given the condition the place is in maybe they should be on their way out!

Advocates say it will be hard to make significant change, given the budget constraints.

But Patrick could borrow a billion dollars to give to biotech.

“We have seen, time and time again, new commissioners come in and, in the last few decades, we have not seen the systemic improvements we’ve needed for the kids,” said Erin G. Bradley, executive director of the Children’s League of Massachusetts. “We are hopeful that she will be able to lead the change, especially with the national resources that she can bring to the table.”

Maybe it is the CORRUPTION of the INSTITUTIONS that is the problem, and not the figureheads running it.

Spears took over an agency still reeling from the death of Jeremiah Oliver, a Fitchburg boy whose social worker missed eight monthly visits, as well as other bungled cases. The tragedies sparked public outcry last year and the resignation in August of Commissioner Olga I. Roche. Until Spears took over in February, the agency had been led by a state transportation official with no child welfare background.

That means not qualified, right? And they went from one mess to another, huh?

Baker recruited Spears to serve as commissioner after she reviewed the department for the Child Welfare League of America, a Washington-based nonprofit where she worked for the last 22 years. Her report faulted the department for out-of-date policies, poor technology, and lack of staff.

She said Tuesday the department has started to address some of those problems....

I'm not going to blame them for anything. Give them a chance.


It's not just Massachusetts, either:

"As Arizona struggles to fix foster system, children suffer" by Rick Rojas, New York Times  March 25, 2015

PHOENIX — She was just 5 months old the first time she and her siblings were taken from a mother struggling with addiction and placed in the care of the state. At times, she was separated from her brothers and sisters. She received neither the glasses she needed, nor the orthopedic shoes, leaving her with a limp. Now 10, she has spent more than half her life in foster care, having been returned to her mother only to be removed again, a routine that has been repeated multiple times.

The girl, identified only by the initials B.K., is one of several child plaintiffs named in a lawsuit filed last month by two advocacy groups, which assert that Arizona pulls children from tumultuous family lives only to place them in more turbulent circumstances in the care of the state’s child welfare system. Although that system was overhauled last year, after the disclosure by a whistle-blower that more than 6,500 complaints about child neglect and mistreatment were reported but completely ignored, the lawsuit asserts that only negligible progress has been made.

“You have nearly 17,000 children in the system who need services. They need foster homes, they need health care, they need mental health care,” said William Kapell, senior attorney for Children’s Rights, one of the groups that filed the suit. “Children in foster care who don’t receive the services they need wind up having dire results, and Arizona is clearly on that track.”

A week after the lawsuit was filed, Arizona’s new governor, Doug Ducey, acknowledged that the state had come up “woefully short” and ousted the director of the Department of Child Safety, Charles Flanagan, who had only been in the job about a year. In his place, Ducey appointed Gregory McKay, the whistle-blowing police detective who discovered the cases of potential abuse that had been called in to an agency hotline but never investigated.

McKay, who most recently was the agency’s director of child welfare investigations, has started a top-to-bottom review, looking at all of the agency’s programs and contracts for ways to redirect resources to welfare investigations and case management. Already, he said, he has shuffled the staff, including some departures, and disbanded a special investigations unit.

“I’m not about looking good,” McKay said in a recent interview. “I’m about being good.”

The agency McKay now leads, the Department of Child Safety, was set up last year to replace Arizona’s Child Protective Services, which had been housed within a larger state agency that oversees a spectrum of social services.

With the disclosure that four years’ worth of hot line calls had been brushed aside, the governor at the time, Jan Brewer, removed child welfare from the Department of Economic Security, establishing it as its own arm of the state government and elevating its leader to a Cabinet-level post, reporting directly to the governor. She named Flanagan, who had been the director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, to lead the new agency.

Arizona’s foster care population continues to increase rapidly, with thousands of children being added in recent years, even as most states have seen declines.

As of last September, 16,990 children were in the state’s care, up from 10,700 in 2011. The recent lawsuit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, paints a picture of ongoing dysfunction. The groups that filed the lawsuit say that the recent reforms were aimed at improving the investigation process, but little had been done to address conditions for children already in the foster care system.

Advocates said their concerns intensified because of the state’s budget situation, which has led to cuts across many agencies.


Whatever you do, don't privatize the services:

"Burlington day-care provider charged in baby death; Woman linked to “shaken baby” injuries, DA says" by Jeremy C. Fox, Globe Correspondent  March 28, 2015

WOBURN — A Burlington woman has been charged with murder and with operating an unlicensed child-care program in connection with the death last year of a 6-month-old girl in her care, the Middlesex district attorney’s office announced Friday.

Tests performed following the infant’s death suggest that she died after being shaken while in the care of the woman, Pallavi Macharla, 40, said Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan, in the announcement....



"A 21-year-old Bridgewater State University student has been charged with sexually abusing two children at the on-campus day care center where he worked, authorities said Wednesday. Kyle Patrick Loughlin of Wrentham is accused of abusing the two boys who are between the ages of 4 and 5, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said in a statement. He was charged with two counts of rape of a child and three counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, Cruz said. Loughlin was arraigned Wednesday morning in Brockton District Court and held without bail awaiting a dangerousness hearing set for April 6, authorities said. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf. There was no answer Wednesday afternoon at a phone number listed for Loughlin’s family in Wrentham. Loughlin was arrested by university police after officers received complaints from staff members at the campus Children’s Center, according to Eva Gaffney, a spokeswoman for BSU. The arrest took place Tuesday night after Loughlin made a statement to police about the allegations and agreed to a search of his campus dorm room, Cruz said."

"If employees of the Department of Children and Families are this miserable, imagine what it’s like to be the kids in their care. We keep letting those who could do something about it — governors, legislators — off the hook. As with so many of this state’s gargantuan problems (transportation, anyone?), the failings of one regime are left at the feet of the next. We get incremental change, but the big, dismal picture stays the same. Will the administration of Charlie Baker be any different? As you’d expect, the official answer is yes. History would suggest we have reason to be skeptical. Still, health and human services secretary Marylou Sudders was saying all of the right things in an interview Wednesday." 

I want to know WHO IS WE, and why is collective guilt being applied to us all? 

I had nothing to do with any of it, and have been trying to do my part to help here for the last eight years -- something that has now fallen out of favor, I'm told (con$ider the $ource!). 

If so, why are my hits spiking?