ITeam: DCF’s Handling Of Oliver Case Goes Before House Committee

BOSTON (CBS) — Jeremiah Oliver hasn’t been seen since September.

Now, Rep. David Linsky is leading the state legislature’s probe of the troubled child welfare agency which lost track of him.

“It is systematically broken because they lost an innocent little 5-year-old boy,” Linksy says.

Linsky is the Chairman of the House Post Audit Committee.

On January 23, his committee will question top DCF officials about what went wrong. On Monday, Linsky indicated to the ITeam, that it does not appear to be a problem limited to one employee.

“If it was one case worker, who was falsifying reports, then why was there not a system in place to catch that?”

Five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver was last seen in September, and is now presumed dead.

Gov. Deval Patrick has already requested an outside review be conducted of the Department of Children and Families’ handling of the case.

In a letter Monday, the Massachusetts Senate urged the administration to look at the larger picture including workloads of social workers and supervisors, funding and staffing levels, and frequency of home visits.

The union representing the social worker in the Oliver case is also being called to testify. They say excessive caseloads played a role in the boy’s disappearance going undetected for months. Union representative Jason Stephany says that has been a problem for decades.

“I just looked at an article a few days ago from the Boston Herald in 1989 that was talking about this exact same issue, where they were identifying unsafe staffing levels that could be putting kids at risk,” he said.

Senator Robert Hedlund said lawmakers bear some responsibility.

“I do think the funding of DCF, previously DSS, has not been a priority of the legislature or of the administrations. You have people here who do not have a loud voice.”

The union says lawmakers need to fund the hiring of at least 150 social workers.

Linsky also told the ITeam, he is concerned about the data-entry part of a social worker’s job.

He is being told the current computer software is cumbersome, requires too much time, and is taking time away from troubled families.

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