BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray want the head of the Department of Children and Families to resign.
DeLeo began the calls Monday by saying he wants Olga Roche to step down after two more children linked to the embattled state agency died in the last week – one in Grafton and another in Fitchburg.
“Quite frankly, I’m angered to see this continuing to happen. It shows to me complete mismanagement on behalf of DCF. We have to take strong action,” he told reporters at the state State House.
— Carl Stevens (@carlwbz) April 28, 2014
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports
Commissioner Roche met with Governor Deval Patrick Monday afternoon to discuss the latest problems at the agency. There has been no comment from Roche, who has had the support of Gov. Deval Patrick.
When asked about her status before the meeting Monday, Patrick said, “she has some questions to answer for me.” A spokesperson says the governor is reviewing information provided to him in the meeting “in order to assess the appropriate next steps for the Department and the families it serves.”
“My confidence in that whole organization has been rattled,” the governor told reporters earlier Monday. “Beyond that, what I was expressing was my own frustration with this whole situation and the fact that it is intolerable to continue to lose these poor dear children.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Murray said, “recent tragedies highlight the need to address problems within the Department and the entire agency needs to be examined. In combination with Commissioner Roche’s resignation, we need to make sure we are bringing someone in to turn this agency around and providing the necessary resources to support their work. We are experiencing a serious crisis regarding the safety of our children and we need real leadership now.”
TWO RECENT DEATHS
Authorities said the family of 2-week old Bailey Irish of Fitchburg, who died over the weekend, was being monitored by state child welfare officials. WBZ learned the baby’s death came a day after the family missed a scheduled visit with DCF.
In an unrelated case, a DCF spokeswoman said a fax from Grafton police about possible harm to 4-month-old Aliana Lavigne, who later died, was misplaced for six days. Aliana LaVigne’s mother told WBZ her daughter may have suffocated while sleeping.
DCF claims police were also supposed to notify them with a phone call, but Grafton Police Chief Normand Crepeau Jr. told WBZ Monday his officers did everything they were required to.
“He should have called also but we’re reviewing that in-house,” Crepeau told WBZ.
Both deaths remain under investigation.
Roche had already been under pressure to resign following the disappearance and death of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg.
The handling of the Grafton case prompted a meeting Monday morning between DeLeo and State Rep. David Linsky, who has been investigating DCF.
“What DCF has done here is completely inexcusable. We’ve got a tragedy of another dead child, in Grafton, and apparently, the police did the right thing here, by reporting a potential child abuse situation and DCF completely dropped the ball,” Linsky told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.
“They are failing to maintain basic business practices. We can’t allow a state agency with the critical job that DCF has, to simply misplace a fax and not assign a social worker, because they can’t find a fax. This is outrageous and they need to be held accountable. This agency is simply not doing their job properly.”
DCF released this statement Monday, saying the department is “deeply saddened by Aliana’s passing.”
“DCF received a 51A report on this household and was in the process of conducting an investigation when this tragic incident occurred. That investigation is ongoing in coordination with the police investigation into this matter.
By law, mandated reporters are required to verbally report allegations of abuse or neglect to DCF and follow up with a written report within 48 hours. This requirement is clearly indicated on the mandated reporter form, and was not met in this instance as no such verbal notification was made by the reporter.
In light of this case, DCF is reviewing and enhancing its policies regarding reports received via fax, has updated the mandated reporter form to include phone numbers for all area offices and is conducting outreach to all mandated reporter groups to remind them of their obligation under the law.”
Meanwhile, Linsky defended the Grafton police.
“Look the Grafton police notified DCF, whether it was by fax, email or telephone, DCF needed to follow up on this. It is basic business practices, you don’t let a fax sit in the fax machine for six days,” he said.
Dr. Mallika Marshall on 51A reports
WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve contributed to this report.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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