By Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) — The governor says this terrible tragedy surrounding the disappearance of 5-year old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg has presented a great opportunity to rethink and re-invigorate the Department of Children and Families.

WBZ-TV’s Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve asked Patrick if he was willing to acknowledge what happened to Jeremiah Oliver was in part, due to systemic problems.

“No I don’t think that is what the record shows,” Patrick said.

Despite his call for a much broader review of DCF , Patrick still maintains losing track of Jeremiah Oliver was simply the fault of three state employees.

“We have a record here which shows not only did the social worker and her supervisor fail to do what they were supposed to do, but that they misrepresented it so it could not have been caught by those higher up. There is a separate serious issue about staffing at DCF and that is not a new issue.”

However, last week the office of the Child Advocate concluded excessive caseloads were a contributing factor.

Documents obtained by the I-Team show caseloads statewide have been going up every year for the past three years reaching an average of more than 16 families per social worker in 2013. The national standard is 15.

Department of Children and Families Social Worker Caseloads

2011 – 15.68

2012 – 15.72

2013 – 16.31

However, the Leominster office which lost track of Jeremiah Oliver had an average caseload of almost 19 families per worker. While the most overburdened office, Whitinsville, had more than 19. That is where a local official complained DCF employees ignored repeated abuse complaints.

Department of Children and Families Social Worker Caseloads

Leominster – 18.73

Whitinsville – 19.08

And the union says caseloads don’t begin to tell the whole story.

“Let’s say you have a caseload of 20 which many, many social workers in the Commonwealth do, that could mean 80 or more children,” said the union’s Jason Stephany.

Linda Spears is with the Child Welfare League which will be conducting the outside review of DCF.

“Whenever there is child missing and possibly deceased, there is nothing more troubling and you have to look in everything to see if there is anything that can be done to make improvements and reduce the likelihood that this ever happens again,” Spears said.

The Child Welfare League says they hope to have tangible recommendations for changes at DCF by early spring.

Patrick says he hopes to have some preliminary ideas on the table by the end of next month.

Jon Keller on Patrick’s call for reform of DCF

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