By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – I spent my day Thursday talking with people close to the Department for Children and Families, DCF – the state agency charged with protecting kids from dangerously dysfunctional families (or with no families of their own) – that’s been under fire since the fiasco of Jeremiah Oliver, the little Fitchburg boy missing and presumed dead for months before the agency in charge of monitoring him even knew he was gone.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

And one refrain I heard is especially hard to swallow – that all this is really nothing new.

The cycle is: often underpaid, overworked, poorly-trained social workers and their sometimes incompetent supervisors trying to do one of the hardest jobs in state government bungle the task. Public and media outrage ensue. Beacon Hill reacts with more funding and vows of reform.

Over time, the outrage fades, and the funding gets cut or fails to keep up with the need.

This is human nature, I suppose, but that makes it more depressing, not less.

Try this simple exercise: you’re in charge of the state budget. List your top ten spending priorities.

I would start with the basics.

We have to have working infrastructure: roads that are open, public transit that runs, water that flows and is clean. We need police, fire, and teachers. And access to health care makes the top five.

Then what?

I say, helping those who can’t help themselves: the frail elderly, the mentally and physically disabled, wounded veterans, and vulnerable children.

I doubt there’s more than a handful of legislators who would quarrel with that list.

So, tell me,  why on earth does DCF ever struggle to get the resources it needs?

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.



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