DCF continues to struggle

Ten years ago, Haleigh Poutre arrived at a Westfield hospital with grievous injuries inflicted by her aunt (who was also her adoptive mother) and stepfather. The 11-year-old was nearly removed from life support but rallied and recovered.

The Worcester Telegram recently followed up on the Poutre case. Now 21 and living with her adoptive family in western Massachusetts, the young woman requires constant care.

Her adoptive parents, Keith and Rebekah Arnett, underlined a disturbing observation: Not much has changed in the way the Department of Children and Families handles cases where the agency has received multiple reports about abuse from a variety of sources.

Since Haleigh’s ordeal unfolded, two other cases with striking similarities have made headlines, those of Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg and Jack Loiselle of Hardwick. Sixteen DCF staff members as well as a host of outside providers, medical professionals, teachers, and others handled or knew of Jack’s ordeal.

The recent DCF report on the Loiselle case noted that the September document was “the first time all the information related to this case was compiled in a comprehensive manner.” The problems in the Loiselle case were familiar ones, including decision-making pathways that allowed a child with an unfit parent to remain with that parent and the continued problems plaguing the Worcester-area office, which handled the boy’s case and others with tragic outcomes.

DCF has capable professionals at its highest levels, but out in the field offices overburdened social workers continue to toil in perpetual crisis mode. The Baker administration has appointed Maria Mossaides, a Cambridge social services professional, as the new Child Advocate. What the Loiselle report indicates, as if more evidence were necessary, is that the lines of assessment and decision-making are disastrously muddled on the ground.

The reforms that have been put in place over the past 10 years will never cure the scourge of child abuse. But, as the report concludes, they should be sufficient to prevent a 6-year-old boy from being taken from his grandmother and turned over to a father that he has never known and who was not equipped to be a parent.

Haleigh Poutre’s adoptive father told the Telegram, “Reviews are not done and now a kid is in a coma. They knew certain things about [Jack Loiselle’s] dad in Hardwick and they didn’t do anything. That is insane when you think about it. DCF is a machine…The system is so big it doesn’t look at kids as individuals – just policies and procedures – and that is where the system really got it wrong.”




The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is struggling with a huge backlog of complaints. The agency’s chair says “we’re slow because there’s not enough resources to be able to do the job.” (Berkshire Eagle)

Beacon Hill is responding to consumer anger over homeowners’ insurance rates that spiked following last winter’s storms, with the state Division of Insurance scheduling a hearing and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office pledging to review the rate increases. (Boston Globe)

Advocates say the state needs to invest a lot more in transportation. (Salem News)

State Rep. Tackey Chan of Quincy is proposing legislation that would allow ethnic markets to bypass blue laws that ban stores from opening on Thanksgiving or Christmas because many of their customers don’t celebrate those holidays. (Boston Herald)


An Eagle-Tribune editorial on Sunday says Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera has done some things the paper doesn’t agree with, but nothing warranting a recall effort. A Globe editorial on Monday says Lawrence voters should not support a signature-gathering effort to put a recall of Rivera on the ballot.

A state judge slaps the owner of the former Merrimac Paper mill in Lawrence with $591,000 in fines for improper demolition work that released asbestos into the air. (Eagle-Tribune)

A 12-year-old Lowell boy trying to jump on to a freight train slips and has his leg run over by the train. (The Sun)


Studies show abortions are harder to obtain in many states around the country than they were in 2008, the result of Republicans taking control of state legislatures and governors’ offices in the 2010 elections. (U.S. News & World Report)

Europe’s reaction to the last big refugee crisis — more than 70 years ago — was one of the darkest stains on human history, writes Timothy Snyder, and the US did not shine at that moment, either. (Boston Globe)


Democratic presidential candidates are responding to calls for attention to the issues being raised by the “black lives matter” movement. (Boston Globe)


Jim Rooney, the new head of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, says he sees no indication the failed Olympic bid has hurt business. (Keller@Large)

The three major credit rating agencies have raised their outlooks on nonprofit hospitals because of the rise in mergers and the increased utilization of Medicaid due to changes in the Affordable Care Act. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Online lenders are beginning to cut into the business of traditional brick-and-mortar banks but some observers and regulators see troubling signs in loans and collections and are concerned the practice is beginning to resemble the mortgage crisis of 2008. (New York Times)


A deep dive into new data released by the federal government shows a college education doesn’t always result in a significant boost in earnings, with the numbers showing that graduates from elite schools prop up the national averages. (New York Times)

The Boston Public Schools want to increase diversity among teachers. (WBUR)

It’s hard to keep up with Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun. (Boston Globe)


Teenagers today are using drugs, drinking, and smoking less and having less sex, according to a new report, and some attribute the change in behaviors to the proliferation of electronic devices such as smartphones that occupy their attention more. (U.S. News & World Report)

A small Boston institute is posing a threat to the pharmaceutical industry by pushing the idea of “value-based” pricing for drugs, a method that would dramatically lower the cost of some new drugs. (Boston Globe)


Riders on the Washington, DC, subway system are fed up, and have formed a union to mobilize for improvements. (Washington Post)

TechNet rep Matt Mincieli sides with Uber as the Legislature prepares to take up the issue of what to do with ride-sharing apps. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA says advertising dollars are on the rise in 2015. (Associated Press)

The New Bedford City Council plans to file legislation on Beacon Hill seeking more local control over traffic regulations. (Standard-Times)

Farmers in central Massachusetts are losing ground to an invasive plant called autumn olive that the Department of Transportation once used to stabilize land adjacent to roadways. (Telegram & Gazette)


Officials have found a softshell turtle native to China and reports of another in the waters off Wollaston, spurring fear someone is releasing the reptiles which could develop into an invasive species and upset the local ecosystem. (Patriot Ledger)

Truro wants to build a solar farm on a former landfill but needs the Department of Environmental Protection to act on certifying the location so town officials can move ahead.


Some medical experts are beginning to question whether shaken baby syndrome, which gained attention during the infamous murder trial of British nanny Louise Woodward convicted in the death of Matthew Eappen in Newton, has been diagnosed too liberally. (New York Times)

A shooting sends revelers fleeing a Caribbean festival yesterday afternoon in Cambridge. (Boston Herald)


It may be a national draw, but for those in our region already steeped in decades of Whitey Bulger stories, Black Mass is not exactly must-see, writes Ty Burr. (Boston Globe)

Dan Rather is moved by the Toronto premier of Truth, a sympathetic telling of his downfall at CBS News. (Arizona Daily Star)

Oh My God! Reporters ask the new Miss America Betty Cantrell whether Tom Brady cheated by deflating footballs. (Associated Press)