I'm turning them over to you. I don't know what else to do with them.
"As caseload soars, capacity lifted at many foster homes" by Michael Levenson Globe Staff January 23, 2016
Massachusetts officials, struggling to find placements for an influx of abused children, have sharply increased the number of foster homes allowed to take in more children than generally permitted, according to two years of data recently obtained by the Globe.
The data, released through a public records request, show the Department of Children and Families granted 172 “overcapacity waivers” between October 2014 and October 2015.
Child advocates said the increase suggests the department has had to bend its rules more frequently as it struggles to reconcile a chronic lack of available foster homes with a historic spike in its child protection caseload.
The caseload has reached record levels in recent years as families have been torn apart by the opioid epidemic and placed under greater scrutiny following the deaths of several children under the agency’s watch.
“We’re in the perfect storm,” said Maria Z. Mossaides, who heads the state Office of the Child Advocate. “We are seeing an increase in the number of kids, so we know we need more foster homes.”
The waivers became an issue last year after the department acknowledged that it had inappropriately granted one for an Auburn home where a 2-year-old died and a 22-month-old was grievously injured. Both suffered from heat stroke and had bruises that suggested that they may have struggled to get out of car seats.
That's a different file.
DCF had approved the waiver to allow the mother to care for six children in her home — three young foster children, in addition to her own three children, one of whom has special needs.
Later, DCF said the waiver should not have been issued because the home did not have enough space for all six children. Furthermore, DCF acknowledged that the children should never have been entrusted to the mother, who had been repeatedly accused of neglect.
Mossaides and other child advocates pointed out that the department often grants the waivers to prevent siblings from being separated from one another when they are removed from their families and placed in foster care.
“There are some instances in which overcapacity waivers may be appropriate and best for kids,” said Susan R. Elsen, an attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, which advocates for services for families in the child protection system.
But the fact that the number of waivers granted by DCF increased by nearly 50 percent over a 12-month period suggests the department may not be doing enough to stabilize troubled families and may be removing too many children, Elsen said.
Cheryl Haddad, president of the Massachusetts Alliance For Families, said, “It’s putting everyone in a precarious situation, which is concerning.”
If only these kids had a big brother or something.
What's in the next folder?
"Lynn man pleads guilty in death of infant" by Nestor Ramos Globe Staff January 15, 2016
Drunk and high on drugs as he changed the diaper of an infant he had recently learned was not his son, Anthony C. Gideika flew into a frenzy.
And the next night, it happened all over again.
Gideika, 35, pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter and assault and battery in the violent 2013 killing of 3-month-old Chase Gideika, whose death was among the cases that prompted changes at the Department of Children and Families. Gideika, of Lynn, was sentenced to 16-20 years behind bars and five years probation.
I don't know if I can keep reading this one, readers.
As a condition of the plea agreement, he will be required to alert authorities should he ever become a father or caregiver to a child again.
In a prepared statement read by his lawyer, Kevin Mitchell, Gideika described the sequence of events that led to the baby’s death.
Suspicious of his girlfriend, Jennifer Nelson, because of Chase and his twin brother Anthony Gideika Jr.’s darkening complexions, Anthony Gideika confirmed his fears with an over-the-counter paternity test. That discovery, said Mitchell, sent the longtime drug addict and Iraq War veteran into a tailspin.
He and Nelson had met at a methadone clinic, Mitchell said, and though Gideika had been a competent father for the first two months of the boys’ lives, he was soon deep in the throes of abuse again. Even so, Nelson left him to care for the kids one night in July as she went out to a party featuring a tattoo artist.
Not exactly a match made in heaven, is it?
But Gideika became enraged when the boy urinated on him during a diaper change. He grabbed the baby’s genitals and squeezed hard.
(Blog editor is speechless in the face of such a thing)
The next morning Nelson noticed severe bruising but left the boys with Gideika again that night — returning to the party determined to get her tattoo.
That’s when Gideika, again incensed during a diaper change, shook and slammed Chase Gideika, throwing the baby into a couch where his head hit a hard arm.
Nelson returned and they eventually called paramedics, but within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital, the boy was brain dead. The injuries were so severe that he had bled into his ocular nerve and spine. His head, torso, and genitals were covered in bruises, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said.
Mitchell said the drugs — not the knowledge the children were not his own — led to Gideika’s violent, deadly outburst.
But Superior Court Judge David A. Lowy said Friday in accepting the plea deal that while that may be an explanation for what happened, it was no excuse. The 16-20 year sentence is at the upper limit of what is allowable for a manslaughter charge.
Gideika said little in court Friday, and offered no clear apology for what he had done.
In court Friday, the twins’ biological father said Gideika had sent him a text threatening to harm the boys after learning he was not their father.
“I feel destroyed for the loss of my child,” said Juan Heredia of Lynn. He said he had a chance to hold one of the boys before Chase Gideika’s death, but he didn’t know which one. He said he has since spent time with the boy’s brother, Anthony Jr., who he said has many health problems. A court spokeswoman said he remains in foster care.
Nelson also faces three charges in connection with her son’s death: permitting substantial injury to a child; reckless endangerment to a child; and willfully misleading a police investigation. She is in custody, a court spokeswoman said, and was not present at Friday’s hearing. Her trial is scheduled for March 28.
In death, Chase Gideika became one of several children whose grim fates were seen as emblematic of DCF’s failings. A few months before Chase Gideika was born, his older brother, then 3, was allegedly found wandering alone in the street while Nelson and Anthony Gideika were passed out after a visit to the methadone clinic. The boy was removed and placed in foster care, and Nelson has since surrendered her parental rights to the child.
But despite the obvious red flags, DCF left the boys in Nelson and Gideika’s care — a decision sharply criticized in a subsequent state report. Investigators found that the decision to leave the Gideika twins in the home was likely a result of DCF’s longstanding — but since overhauled — bias toward leaving children in their homes and with their families.
Last fall, Governor Charlie Baker announced DCF’s “fundamental purpose” should be keeping children safe, even if it means dismantling families.
Maybe you ladies are better off staying single.
Seeing as this whole blog is in disarray:
Revamped DCF policies will put kids first, governor says
DCF takes custody of children in Worcester home where girl died
Mom, grandmother released from custody in child endangerment case
They got time served (just picking up some lint).
Let's open up that Auburn file then:
"Report faults DCF for licensing Auburn foster home; Trouble signs missed on home, foster mother, review says" by Michael Levenson and Andy Rosen Globe Staff October 01, 2015
The two little girls who were found unresponsive in Auburn this summer were living in a foster home that should never have been licensed and entrusted to a foster mother who had repeatedly been accused of neglect, according to a harsh report released Thursday by Governor Charlie Baker.
The report, which detailed failures at almost every level of the Department of Children and Families, confirmed that 2-year-old Avalena Conway-Coxon, who died, and 22-month-old Samara, who remains hospitalized, suffered from heat stroke and had bruises that suggested that they may have struggled to get out of car seats.
No one has been charged in the case, which remains under investigation, but Baker said two DCF workers had been placed on administrative duty. Officials said the workers, a manager and a social worker who has been with the department for 25 years, could be disciplined or fired.
How severe in the face of dead children.
State incompetence, corruption, whatever, is often absolved. They take on the responsibility of such things with no accountability. That's just the way it is.
And while in no way endorsing the new governor, this is further proof of the absolute negligence and neglect regarding the Deval Patrick regime, which seemed to accomplish nothing other than a yawning income gap on this state while pushing forward the larger agenda.
Think about it off the top of the head: meningitis murders, state drug lab scandals, Bridgewater torture, failed state websites, DCF, the failing and decrepit schools after the myth of the education governor, the heroin epidemic, and I don't know what I'm leaving out but they were all on his eight-year watch.
“The report made clear there were many instances of blatant lack of oversight by DCF staff,” Baker said, striking a familiar tableau as he stood with his two top child welfare officials to grimly review the details of a child’s death for at least the third time in the last several months. “The failure to recognize and report certain issues with this foster home and parent is unacceptable.”
The review, done by DCF staff, was released as authorities confront the cases of two more children who may have died while under the agency’s watch.
A 4-month-old boy who was found unresponsive in a Lynn homeless shelter Saturday had been the subject of two previous neglect reports to DCF, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation.
Police are also investigating the death Monday of a 2-year-old girl in Worcester whose family was being actively monitored by DCF, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which quoted the girl’s uncle.
While the precise circumstances surrounding the death in Auburn remain a mystery, the report provided several clues as to what might have happened in the hours before the foster mother, Kimberly Malpass, called 911 on Aug. 15 to report that Avalena and Samara were unresponsive.
According to the foster mother’s boyfriend, Anthony Mallet, an alleged drug addict with a criminal record, Malpass had gone out drinking with her friends the night before.
When Malpass returned home, she was drunk and vomiting, and she and Mallet argued, he later told an investigator. He said he took two Xanax tablets out of her pocketbook and went to bed. He woke up the next day, he said, when he heard Malpass screaming, and left the house before police arrived....
Related: “It’s a terrible tragedy. I used to see the kid on the back porch. I told her words can’t express how sorry I am.” It’s all in God’s hands now,” the neighbor said."
Study finds DCF’s two-tier system endangers children
Custody battle highlights DCF’s difficulties
DCF ends its 2-tier child-welfare monitoring process
New DCF policies require vigilant follow-through
Protect adopted children with the ‘re-homing’ bill
Computer woes delay child-care subsidies
Some things never change.
"Report says more changes needed at DCF" by Michael Levenson Globe Staff November 20, 2015
A report by the Child Advocate, Maria Z. Mossaides, found that despite a move toward electronic record-keeping, some children’s medical records are still kept on paper, preventing DCF staff from being able to read them from any location, at any time.
Sick of the excu$e yet, and where has all that money really gone.
DCF also lacks a central database to house the criminal background checks conducted on foster parents, forcing staff to search individual paper files scattered in offices across the state to find out what crimes the parents were convicted of and when, the report said.
Despite its focus on the shortcomings in those areas, the report struck a more optimistic tone than previous assessments of DCF, which have painted a picture of widespread dysfunction at the agency....
It's all image and illusion.
The report credited DCF with seeking to fill vacancies in its managerial ranks following the recent exodus of 96 supervisors, clerks, administrators, and lawyers who left midyear under Governor Charlie Baker’s early retirement program. DCF is also launching a quality assurance team, and has hired hundreds of social workers over the last 15 months, the report said.
“There is a sense of hopefulness that I am really excited about, as someone who has monitored the department,” Mossaides said at a press conference. “What we all need to recognize is this rebuilding is a big project. There is no fairy dust. We can’t sprinkle it and expect changes are going to happen overnight. But I truly believe the approach is the right approach.”
I've been doing this so long I'm not hopeful or excited. Sorry.
To ensure that DCF follows through on its promises, Mossaides urged the department to publish a detailed timeline of the changes it plans to make in the coming months and to hold regular briefings to update the public on its progress.
“Transparency and accountability are . . . crucial,” the report said. “The public deserves information about whether its child welfare system is achieving the desired child and family outcomes.”
Yes, they do, but....
The report urged DCF to use computer algorithms to determine which children are at greatest risk based on certain characteristics, such as their age, their caretaker’s past involvement with the child welfare system, and any history of drug abuse in the home.
Yes, the total surveillance grid and computer metrics will solve all problems.
One wonders why they haven't already, fourteen years after 9/11.
The approach, known as predictive analytics, has already swept through the corporate, sports, and political worlds.
Oh, well, who could argue with that $ucce$$?
It helps Netflix know which movies its customers want, Olive Garden forecast when it will need extra staff, and baseball teams predict what a pitcher is likely to throw next....
Predictive metrics will solve all problems!
That's the pitch!
It's all because they love you, of course:
"Child deaths go unsolved as autopsies fall behind; Official reports on causes can take years to complete" by Jenifer McKim New England Center for Investigative Reporting November 29, 2015
Dozens of cases of Massachusetts children who may have died of abuse and neglect remain unresolved for years because investigators have been hamstrung by delays in obtaining death reports and difficulty determining whether deaths were accidental, natural, or the results of a crime, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
The state medical examiner’s office, long under fire for delays in performing adult autopsies, is even slower when children die, taking an average of 242 days to find an official cause of death in child abuse and neglect cases.
Official death reports based on those findings sometimes take more than three years to complete, the New England Center found in its review of 102 cases, including the case of a 1-month-old boy who died in 2012 and whose death determination is still pending.
(Blog editor just shaking his head as he realizes how totally f***ed up this $tate is with its priorities and the clash with the myth of this place)
The unresolved cases include three open homicide investigations, but also many others in which the medical examiner was unable to determine whether the child was deliberately killed. In more than 40 percent of the cases reviewed, the medical examiner’s report listed the cause of death as “undetermined.”
As a series of high-profile child abuse deaths in Massachusetts make headlines — including the September arraignment of the alleged killer of 2-year-old Bella Bond, whose body was found in a trash bag on Deer Island — family members of children whose abuse drew far less public notice question if justice will ever be served in their cases.
More on her below.
Trying to hire examiners
State officials acknowledge that the medical examiner’s office has been plagued by delays, and is currently facing a backlog of 1,922 pending autopsy reports from 2011 to 2014. Daniel Bennett, secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said the office is trying to hire more examiners and other staff to reduce the backlog.
It's the tenure of Deval Patrick again.
Add it to the list, and remember, this was allegedly happening at a time of better-then-average economic recovery.
“There are failures within the system,’’ he said. The state, for example, did not have access to a doctor who could examine infant hearts for almost a year, an issue that was resolved in May. “The medical examiner’s office has been climbing out of a hole for the last two years,” he said.
Hollywood needed the money more!
They couldn't find a doctor?
Still, even with sufficient resources, the process is necessarily painstaking and slow in some cases, Bennett said. Infant deaths, for instance, sometimes require multiple scientific tests and the review of reports from law enforcement, the state Department of Children and Families, and hospitals.
I'm so tired of excuses coming from the all-knowing state.
And not all cases can be resolved. Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said that investigating and prosecuting child maltreatment deaths can be particularly challenging for law enforcement.
When young children die, there are often few clues about the cause.
Unlike adults or older children, they generally leave no trail of evidence such as text messages, nor a wide circle of adults who might have noticed or suspected signs of abuse, and little verbal capacity to tell anyone about their plight before death. Children also are often in the care of more than one person in the period leading up to their deaths, making it harder to identify a suspect.
“It tears your heart out in some of these cases,” Early said. “We can only go where the facts and the evidence take us.”
Beyond the heartbreak for families, the delays and uncertainty in these cases may also be putting other children at risk, say child advocates.
They tried to blame the now discredited Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Frustrating state delays
The slow pace of the medical examiner’s office can be frustrating to families and law enforcement officials alike, potentially stalling the criminal justice process indefinitely.
When our Constitution demands a right to a speedy trail, but stalling justice -- as opposed to JU$TUS -- is the formula for totalitarian dictatorship.
Even in the notorious case of Fitchburg preschooler Jeremiah Oliver — who vanished while under state social service supervision — no cause of death has yet been announced almost two years after his body was found. Jeremiah’s mother and boyfriend, already charged with assault, kidnapping, and child endangerment, could face murder charges if the medical examiner rules the case a homicide.
In some cases, even a finding of homicide does not prompt action....
Which is why I killed this when I did.
Are you still waiting for the death certificate?
Exact cause of Bella Bond’s death still unclear
Girl whose body was found on Deer Island is laid to rest
Father of ‘Baby Doe’ charged in shoplifting case
"The father of slain toddler Bella Bond pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he attempted to steal a cart full of items from a Home Depot in Dorchester, including a band saw that cost more than $300. When he was arrested Tuesday afternoon, Prosecutors said Joseph Amoroso, 32, told officers: “Do you know who I am? I’m Baby Doe’s dad,” referring to the name investigators gave his daughter before they learned her identity. “Now you can tell everyone you arrested Baby Bella’s father.” Police searched Amoroso and found several hypodermic needles in his pockets. Amoroso remained free on $200 bail and was ordered to report to probation once a week. He declined to comment outside the South Boston courthouse and quickly walked away from a group of reporters. Prosecutors had sought higher bail, saying Amoroso had a lengthy criminal record that included charges for drug offenses and resisting arrest. He had criminal records in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida, authorities said. Amoroso, of Lynn, never met his daughter but tearfully declared his love for her after authorities charged her mother’s boyfriend in September with her death. They also charged the child’s mother, Rachelle Bond, as an accessory. Bella Bond’s body was discovered on Deer Island on June 25 but went unclaimed for months."
It's not like I want to be unsympathetic to this wonderful fellow, but his tragedy gives him the right to steal or be given free stuff?
DCF worker who copied reports in Bella Bond case keeps job
The trust has been broken.
"Bella Bond’s mother pleads not guilty" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Staff January 06, 2016
While investigators conducted a months-long, international search to identify the remains of the girl known as “Baby Doe,” her mother attended a family reunion with the accused murderer and accepted more than $1,400 in state welfare assistance for children, even though she knew her daughter was dead, prosecutors said Wednesday.
See: Rachelle Bond collected public assistance after she knew of the toddler’s death
Those details emerged Wednesday as Rachelle Bond appeared in court for the first time since a grand jury indicted her in December on charges of accessory to murder and larceny. Bond, 40, who hid her face and crouched as she entered the hearing at Suffolk Superior Court, pleaded not guilty, and was ordered held on $1 million cash bail.
Bond had ample opportunity to report the death of Bella, whose body was discovered in a trash bag that washed up on a Deer Island beach in June, prosecutors said. Instead, they said, she willingly helped conceal the girl’s body, continued her relationship with her boyfriend and the toddler’s accused killer, Michael P. McCarthy, 35, and repeatedly lied about the child’s whereabouts.
I'm ready to close this one, I'm sorry.
Bond’s lawyer, Janice Bassil, argued that Bond was burdened by an abusive relationship and was “emotionally and psychologically controlled” by McCarthy. She asked a judge for a swift arraignment, citing the worldwide attention the case has attracted. Bassil said she was worried the prosecution’s statements could prejudice a potential jury against her client.
The more the ma$$ media and pre$$ cover something the less interested I seem.
“We dispute any allegations that she assisted in the death of her child,” Bassil said after the proceedings. “She loved her daughter.”
In the ensuing months, including the weeks after the body was discovered and her daughter became known worldwide as “Baby Doe,” David Deakin, the prosecutor, said Bond and McCarthy maintained a domestic relationship and attend social events together. At McCarthy’s family reunion in New Hampshire in July, Deakin said, other relatives told authorities that the couple acted normally.
On Sept. 16, Bond allegedly admitted to a friend that McCarthy had killed her daughter. The friend then told his sister, and both siblings later passed along Bond’s words to police.
Only then were officials able to match Bella’s identity to the mysterious “Baby Doe.”
The ensuing police investigation used cadaver-sniffing dogs to identify traces of Bella’s body in the couple’s refrigerator, and dive teams found the weights and the duffel bag in waters near the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in the Seaport District.
On Wednesday, after the arraignment concluded, Bassil said that regardless of her client’s public actions, Bond was always under the control of McCarthy.
Before the death of her child, Bond had a history of crime, including charges for drug possession and prostitution. According to prosecutors, Wednesday marked Bond’s 32nd arraignment in a Massachusetts courthouse. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 25.
McCarthy is scheduled to be arraigned in Bella’s murder on Jan. 11....
"Lawyer for McCarthy accuses Rachelle Bond of killing ‘Baby Doe’" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Staff January 11, 2016
A lawyer for the Quincy man charged with the killing of Bella Bond turned the tables on the man’s accusers Monday, saying that the 2-year-old’s mother probably committed the crime and has since duped prosecutors into blaming him.
“The only evidence for the Commonwealth is the self-serving statement of Rachelle Bond,” Jonathan Shapiro, the lawyer for Michael P. McCarthy, said in Suffolk Superior Court. “It is uncorroborated. It is unbelievable, and it is untrue.”
It's he said, she said.
Shapiro said an autopsy of the girl, who became known worldwide as “Baby Doe,” showed no signs of trauma or broken bones. That, he said, contradicts prosecutors’ allegations — and Bond’s own account — of how McCarthy repeatedly struck the child’s midsection until her face was swollen and gray.
“There’s no forensic evidence and no DNA evidence” to link McCarthy to the crime, Shapiro said. “[Rachelle Bond] is far more likely to have killed Bella.”
McCarthy, 35, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and was ordered held without bail just five days after Bond was arraigned on accessory to murder and larceny charges in the same seventh-floor courtroom. It was his first court appearance since being indicted in December in the death of the toddler, whose body was found in a garbage bag that had washed ashore on Deer Island.
Shapiro challenged the picture prosecutors have painted of McCarthy as the violent murderer of a helpless little girl, a controlling and abusive boyfriend who conspired to dispose of the child’s body, and then prevented her mother from alerting authorities through threat and intimidation.
According to Shapiro, McCarthy was known as an “easy-going” and mild-mannered person, while Bond was easily angered, an unrepentant heroin addict, and a woman with a history of child neglect.
In keeping with this argument, McCarthy had cleaned up considerably from his ragged appearance at the time of his arrest, and sported a new buzz-cut that made him almost unrecognizable from his mugshot. He has been receiving treatment for his heroin addiction in prison, his lawyer said.
On Monday, Assistant District Attorney David Deakin, who is prosecuting the case, presented new evidence in the form of text messages between McCarthy and Bond that, Deakin said, prove that McCarthy was aware of the death and involved in the cover-up.
McCarthy has maintained that during the months after Bella disappeared, he thought she was in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.
But Deakin said that in July, three weeks after Bella’s body was found, McCarthy sent Bond a message instructing her not to tell a housing court judge about her daughter. Bond was appearing in court on an unrelated eviction proceeding.
“Definitely don’t bring up the fact that you have a daughter to take care of because then they might want to get [DCF] involved,” McCarthy allegedly texted to Bond.
Deakin said that the text message was a “code,” and amounted to proof that McCarthy knew Bella was not in state custody.
Shapiro countered that McCarthy’s words backed up what he has been saying: That he did not know where Bella was.
Then, in mid-September, Bond told a childhood friend that McCarthy had killed her daughter, and prosecutors said the friend confronted McCarthy in a text message.
The friend demanded to know why McCarthy had killed the child, as Bond had said, but McCarthy allegedly responded that “[DCF] took [B]ella,” according to Deakin.
Two days later, on Sept. 18, the couple was arrested and the world came to know “Baby Doe” by her given name — Bella Neveah Amoroso Bond. She was laid to rest in Winthrop after a private funeral.
Authorities have not isolated the cause of Bella’s death. However, Rachelle Bond told investigators that she saw McCarthy “either striking or applying pressure to Bella’s abdominal area” after he went to her bedroom to “calm her down,” according to statements made by prosecutors during earlier proceedings in Dorchester Municipal Court.
Bond told authorities that McCarthy had told her that he killed Bella because “she was a demon and it was her time to die.”
At Bond’s arraignment last week, prosecutors said that McCarthy and Bond dumped the body in the South Boston waterfront using weights that were identical to ones recovered from a plumbing business in Quincy that is owned by McCarthy’s father.
Bond has been charged as an accessory after the fact to the murder and for allegedly collecting $1,400 in welfare benefits after Bella’s death. She pleaded not guilty to all charges Jan. 6, and is being held on $1 million cash bail.
On Monday, McCarthy’s father, Joseph McCarthy, sat in the last row of the court, and refused to comment following the proceedings.
Where were the grandparents?
Oh, right, I forgot; no day care on Saturday.
State’s high court backs denial of foster parent bid
Gregory and Melanie Magazu had said that corporal punishment was an integral aspect of their Christian faith, and I suppose that wouldn't look to good.
I'm also having a hard time reconciling the corporal punishment with the faith.
"Two in five people released from prison in Massachusetts return to the community without the supervision of a probation or parole officer, according to a review of the state’s criminal justice system released by the nonpartisan Council on State Governments Tuesday. The rate of supervision is one of the lowest in the country, according to analysts with the organization, which has conducted similar assessments in 23 other states. The findings, which also include a sizable drop in drug arrests and convictions over the last several years, is just the start of a months-long examination of the state’s criminal justice system that could lead to significant policy shifts."
Another Massachusetts myth immolated, and just what was the Probation office all these years other than a jobs program for those with connections to Beacon Hill?
"More than 270 escape DYS facilities in 4-year span" by Jan Ransom Globe Staff January 18, 2016
More than 270 youths have escaped from Department of Youth Services facilities in the last four years, including a troubled 18-year-old who was charged in November with the murder of a beloved New Bedford cabdriver, a Globe review of agency records has found.
Most of the young people who fled DYS facilities were returned to custody within 72 hours, but 10 were not found for more than three months.
Thirty-five of those who escaped committed crimes after absconding, records show. DYS did not have information on the range of those offenses.
Juvenile justice experts and advocates say that while the escapes are a concern, the community-based model used by the department since the 1970s is largely effective.
These less-restrictive facilities — in which juveniles can attend classes or hold jobs in the community — have been effective at rehabilitating juveniles and integrating them into the community, so they are less likely to commit more crimes. That is not the case with locked facilities that more closely resemble jails or prisons.
“These community-based programs actually reduce crime, but it’s easier for these kids to leave,” said Naoka Carey, executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice, a Massachusetts nonprofit research and advocacy group. “But if they’re leaving and committing a crime, that’s different.”
In 2015, DYS housed nearly 2,500 youths in a variety of settings. The state has about two dozen lower-security sites known as “staff-secure” community-based facilities, along with others that rely on lock and key to keep juveniles from leaving.
Massachusetts is considered one of the better systems in the country, said Vincent Schiraldi, senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. The DYS holds about 515 residents in its facilities each day.
“It does not look like a mistake-riddled system,” Schiraldi said. “Sometimes really bad things are going to happen when you’re working with deeply troubled youth. I think they need to take a look at what happened in this kid’s case.”
Last month, the Globe requested data on escapes from DYS custody in the last 10 years, but the department said it could provide reliable data only for the last four years because of new technology installed in 2011.
(Blog editor shakes head. I guess the only good computer software is in bank ATMs)
The recent case of the 18-year-old charged in the death of a cabdriver in New Bedford has drawn new attention to the DYS system for detaining youthful offenders, who can be held up to the age of 21.
Alexander Mills was one of nearly 80 youths who escaped from a Department of Youth Services-contracted facility last year, according to data provided by the agency.
Related: Just Millsing Around New Bedford
He had been committed to a “staff-secure” group home in Fall River in November after he was accused of punching a boy and taking his cellphone. Mills, who has a lengthy criminal record, was supposed to remain under DYS supervision until the age of 21, but on Nov. 10 he fled the unlocked facility.
Eighteen days later, he was arrested and charged with the murder of Donald A. DePina, a cabdriver who had served in the Vietnam War and worked for years as the director of veterans’ affairs in New Bedford.
DYS is conducting an internal review to determine how Mills left the group home in the Falls River area.
Speaking generally about escapes from DYS, Commissioner Peter J. Forbes said, “Any time a kid takes off, it’s a cause for concern. We are reviewing protocols to make sure we’re doing everything we should be doing and everything possible to mitigate and minimize this.”
Lizzy Guyton, press secretary for Governor Charlie Baker, said the administration is “working with the Department of Youth Services as they examine security and supervision policies and work to improve their programs to help kids safely rehabilitate back into our communities.”
While some of the escapes have led to new crimes, Carey and others say the Massachusetts model is superior to the alternatives and said the escapes aren’t taken lightly.
“We would never say that’s the cost of doing business or it’s inevitable,” Forbes said. “We treat [escapes] very seriously. We want every kid we work with to be safe.”
When New York transitioned to a more community-based model in 2012, there were more than 1,100 escapes during the program’s first year, according to a report produced by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.
“One of the recognized vulnerabilities of these placements is that youth have the ability to leave the program without permission,” the report states.
Massachusetts moved away from its “training school” model — also known as reform schools or correctional institutions — in the 1970s and became one of the first states to change how it deals with youthful offenders by taking the community-based approach.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is rehabilitate,” Forbes said. “We’re working with individual kids now so we have a positive impact on public safety.”
The Fall River facility Mills fled is one of about 25 staff-secure residential programs across the state, where young offenders slowly earn the ability to participate in educational activities, counseling, and work before preparing to return to the community, officials said.
But some of the escapes have had dangerous consequences. In 2007, then 15-year-old Jeremy Price was charged with manslaughter after he randomly punched Michael Hansbury, a 41-year-old father of three, who hit his head on the ground, fell into a coma, and died a week later. Price, a developmentally disabled teen, had been missing from a DYS facility at the time of the incident and continued to flee similar facilities while the courts debated what to do with him.
He was found incompetent to stand trial. Suffolk Juvenile Court Judge Leslie E. Harris, who is now retired, released Price, who was shot to death three months later.
In the more recent case involving Mills, prosecutors say he and a 16-year-old climbed into the back of DePina’s taxi Nov. 28 and told him to drive to a remote location in Brooklawn Park where Mills shot DePina in the head.
Mills stole DePina’s belongings after removing his body from the cab, prosecutors said. DePina died at a local hospital, and Mills, who was captured Nov. 30 in New Bedford, was charged with armed robbery, murder, and carrying a firearm without a license.
Before he was arraigned last month, Mills told a court psychologist he hears voices that sometimes encourage him to harm people.
His attorney, J. Drew Segadelli, said that there were indications his client needed medication and that prior to being sent to the group home, he had been held at Worcester State Hospital, a state psychiatric facility. The court later decided to send Mills to the Fall River group home, which DYS officials said has licensed clinical social workers to address behavioral health challenges.
Harris, the Suffolk judge, had raised concerns years ago about the state’s ability to deal with youths who might have mental health issues. Recently, the judge said, “My biggest concern is [DYS is] not given the tools for mental health.
“Without services and funds . . . you’re just warehousing kids with mental health issues.”
But it's a superior model.
I patched these in because DYS is the next step up from DCF.
UPDATE: For five years, a girl in limbo, while the state fumbled for answers
I won't be opening that case file, sorry.
Seriously injured child removed from Roxbury home
3-year-old Roxbury boy dies from serious injuries
State continues investigation into Roxbury toddler’s death
Roxbury toddler’s mother devastated after his death
After escape, DYS updates security