At DCF, fix-it focus hits some bumps
Fixing the queueing system that determines wait-times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles is one thing. Bringing order to the state social service agency charged with ensuring the safety of kids caught in the chaotic world of broken families, drug addiction, and abuse is another matter.
So it is that Gov. Charlie Baker found himself holding another State House briefing yesterday with leaders of the Department of Children and Families and the head of the union representing the social workers on the frontlines in the agency.
But unlike a forward-looking press briefing last fall, when Baker and Peter MacKinnon of SEIU 509 trumpeted a new intake system and other reforms being put in place to improve the agency, this one involved an initial look back at how those new systems are working. The short answer: Not so well.
“The training on this new policy has been inconsistent at best and inadequate at worst,” MacKinnon said, standing alongside the governor.
But MacKinnon said yesterday that some DCF managers “are having difficulty understanding and implementing the new policy,” and he described morale among social workers in the agency as the lowest he’s seen in his 18 years at DCF.
Though funding for DCF has been increased and Baker said 170 new staff members have been hired since last July, administration officials acknowledged that implementation of the new policies has not been without some bumps.
“We rolled out really fast,” Linda Spears, the DCF commissioner, said. “What that means is that we had training that was done very, very quickly in January and February. That also means we know we needed to go back to have more trainings as we go forward.”
Even as officials acknowledged problems with the roll out of reforms already adopted, they announced further changes yesterday, including getting social workers to focus on specific issues, such as mental illness and substance abuse, that may have brought a family under DCF’s purview to begin with.
DCF was probably always bound to be the biggest challenge for Baker’s preference for getting the basics of government to work right over talk of sweeping vision and grand new initiatives.
Give him credit at this point for sticking with it, and for apparently not trying to stage only feel-good events on developments at DCF. You have to face problems in order to fix them. So having the union president stand alongside the governor and offer candid criticism at least sends the right signal about the state’s willingness to confront the problems at DCF without blinders.
In signaling the need for that kind of honest reckoning, Baker almost seemed to be drawing on Ecclesiastes for some spiritual guidance. The job of “keeping kids safe” is an ongoing one that is probably never done, he said. “Which is why it depends so heavily on honest dialogue and conversation, and a willingness to recognize when there are times to push ahead and times to breathe and consider where we’ve been.”
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Officials from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office meet with Lawrence residents who feel they have been treated unfairly in the workplace, by insurance companies, and in foreclosure proceeding. (Eagle-Tribune)
A Globe editorial comes out against legislation on Beacon Hill to require labeling of GMO foods.
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Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim wants to ban city-funded travel to North Carolina to protest the state’s recent enactment of a law banning transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that don’t match their biological gender. (Boston Globe)
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An Eagle-Tribune editorial praises the Obama administration for its Cashes Ledge decision.
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Gloria Steinem, at Smith College, addresses and apologizes for her comment that girls who support Bernie Sanders are just looking to hang out with boys. (Masslive)
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Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent Tommy Chang pen a Globe op-ed addressing the budget woes facing the Boston Public Schools.
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School diversifies by attracting students from private schools. (WBUR)
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The Boston archdiocese settles claims with seven victims of clergy sexual abuse. (Boston Globe)
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James Aloisi says Massachusetts needs some Frank Sargent political courage in dealing with its transportation problems. (CommonWealth)
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