DCF audit at issue

Springfield-Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump at The Republican Editorial Board meeting in February 2017

Springfield-Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump at The Republican Editorial Board meeting in February 2017

A scathing report from the state auditor finds the MA child welfare agency failed to report crimes against children to police.

It alleges the Department of Children and Families was unaware of 260 incidents, including a teenager who suffered brain damage from a gunshot wound, a 1-year-old child who had first- or second-degree burns and a 12-year-old with multiple head contusions due to assault.

The agency also identified 19 incidents of abuse, neglect and/or sexual abuse of children during the audit period that were not reported to district attorneys.

"He has long-prioritized DCF and he views protecting vulnerable children as a central mission of state government", Whitney Dow Ferguson, the spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Sudders argued the audit also doesn't reflect the importance of so-called "mandated reporters" a teachers, physicians and police officers who report allegations of child abuse or neglect. "This audit found that despite reforms, victimization of children in DCF's care continues to occur unnoticed by the agency". The OCA is tasked with making sure children in state care receive appropriate services.

These incidents included two male employees at different DCF-contracted residential facilities who sexually abused three girls each; a 10-year-old who was raped by his father; a 4-year-old who was sexually abused by her mother; and a 17-year-old who was gang-raped by five assailants. The governor's office said in a statement Thursday that the "audit is not current", and that many reforms the administration implemented starting in 2015 "have already corrected or addressed concerns raised by the auditor". Her evidence for that claim is that DCF does not report every "critical incident" - including incidents of sexual abuse - to the state Office of the Child Advocate, which is an oversight agency.

Sudders, a social worker, said she is "disappointed" Bump is taking the information from the two years of the audit period and applying it to the agency as it now stands.

"How can the agency not consider sexual abuse a serious injury to a child?"

Working with the Office of the Child Advocate to ensure expectations are met for "critical incident reporting" and reviewing the critical incidents cited in the audit. He said his office has reached out to the Office of the Child Advocate "to consider next steps". "DCF regularly conducts trainings for mandated reporters across the state and offers online trainings developed by local District Attorneys to encourage reporting for any instance of suspected abuse or neglect among children".