By Bob Katzen
The House 158-0, approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would require the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to meet new reporting requirements and be more accountable. The department’s job is to keep children safe from abuse and neglect.
Provisions include requiring an annual survey from the department detailing case counts, rates of adoption by race and ethnicity and the number of children who die in the care and custody of the DCF. The measure also requires DCF to study protections in place for vulnerable children, and to improve the working relationship between the state and foster parents.
Another key section creates a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights including prohibiting discrimination against a foster parent on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age or physical ability; keeping information regarding the foster parent and household members confidential; requiring foster parents to be considered as the first choice for adoption when a non-relative is not involved; providing more training and resources; and ensuring that foster parents receive as much information as possible ahead of time about children to be placed in their care.
“Behind every data point required of DCF under this legislation there are families struggling to stay together and children experiencing trauma who are looking for stability and love,” said Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) “This data and all of the requirements of [the bill] build on the House of Representatives’ long-standing commitment to promoting the welfare of the commonwealth’s most vulnerable children and families.”
“I share the grave concerns about the precipitous drop in child abuse and neglect reports during the COVID-19 crisis, which we believe is because the children, usually interacting with mandated reporters including their educators, coaches, early education staff and childcare providers have not been ‘seen,’” said Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham). “With this bill, the House has demonstrated that we have not lost sight of the children, DCF’s accountability and the commonwealth’s responsibility.”