Bump audit of DCF finds many failings

Bump audit of DCF finds many failings

Deficiencies found in record keeping, storage

State Auditor Suzanne Bump’s investigation of the Department of Children and Families raised more questions about caseworkers’ ability to keep track of the children in state care and pointed to deeper failings at the embattled agency. The auditors scrutinized a two-year period from July 2010 through September 2012 and uncovered numerous examples of poor documentation of the basics, such as medical exams and background checks on individuals living in foster homes.

DCF case workers failed to perform medical screenings and examinations within timeframes specified by law and, in some cases, did not provide enough documentation of the screenings that did occur. Although DCF officials chalked up the problem to different interpretations of MassHeath records, the auditor’s investigators stressed that the agency did not adhere to timetables nor did social workers actually have access to MassHealth records that auditors used to conduct their evaluations.

The auditors faulted the agency on its record-keeping for background checks on individuals living in DCF foster homes. A random sample of 29 cases found that of the 63 background checks required, 43, nearly 80 percent, could not be located. Some caseworkers were destroying paper background checks once completed “unless there was a problem.”

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Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Record storage was also poor. Case files containing sensitive information such as addresses and Social Security numbers were stored in halls and unsecured rooms with boxes stacked halfway up walls in some offices.

Bump concluded that DCF officials failed to regularly take stock of these and other deficiencies and shortcomings which would have, in turn, prompted a wider overhaul of the department’s policies and procedures.

The auditors’ findings highlight one of the agency’s major failings: technology. Social workers have long complained that the agency’s data collection mechanisms are not up to the demands placed on it. Bump also recommended that DCF keep better track of registered sex offenders: Investigators found in several cases that sex offenders were living in the same buildings as children in DCF care.