BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker said information about 911 calls should probably be part of the review process for potential foster parents in Massachusetts.
On Saturday afternoon, the girl’s foster mother called 911 to report that the girl and a 22-month-old girl who also was a foster child were discovered unresponsive at the Auburn apartment.
The older girl died. The younger girl remains hospitalized. An autopsy has been completed, but a cause of death hasn’t been released.
Police gathered evidence at the home Sunday and returned again Tuesday. No charges have been filed.
Police have reported receiving more than two dozen 911 calls from the home since 2008. Baker said many of the calls were from the foster mother reporting problems in the neighborhood and shouldn’t be counted against her.
But the governor said that while 911 data hasn’t historically been part of the review process for would-be foster parents — a process that includes criminal background checks, interviews, and fingerprinting — that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be added to the vetting process in the future.
“In this day and age, that’s not hard data to collect and probably ought to become part of the process,” Baker told reporters.
Baker, a Republican, campaigned for governor in part by criticizing his Democratic opponent Martha Coakley for defending the state against a lawsuit brought by a New York children’s rights group, saying she should have settled the suit instead.
Now Baker finds himself under scrutiny following the death of the girl and the case of a Hardwick man charged last month with starving and beating his 7-year-old son, who remains in a long-term care facility. The state Department of Children and Families had been involved with the family.
In 2013, state social workers lost track of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy whose body was later found along the side of a highway.
Baker said Tuesday that unlike the Oliver case, in both of the recent cases there was a lot of oversight and a lot of “eyes on the kids.” But he acknowledged that improvements still need to be made.
“I know people are working hard, and I know they’re trying to do their best, but clearly we have to do better,” he said. “The goal here is that this doesn’t happen. I think we should aspire to that.”
The Department of Children and Families said six children lived in the apartment and three of them were the mother’s children, who were taken into state care.
Officials said the apartment has been licensed as a foster home since last year and six other foster children had previously lived there.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said Monday that her office has begun an internal investigation.
She said that since December 2013 there has been a 30 percent increase in the cases being handled by the DCF, the highest ever.
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