EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

May 29, 2014

Report: Agency not responsible for boy's death

(Continued)

Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz said the administration has set a goal of 15 cases per social worker. The current ratio is just under 20 cases per worker. Polanowicz said an additional 200 workers have been hired since January, but with retirements and other staff reductions the net gain has been about 90 social workers.

The league made several recommendations including giving social workers in the field access to smartphones. Polanowicz said the state is providing 2,000 computer tablets to social workers to let them check their email and access other online information.

Gov. Deval Patrick has asked for an additional $9.2 million to hire more DCF workers and improve technology in his state budget request for the fiscal year that begins July 1. House and Senate versions of the budget have added to that number. A final budget is still being hammered out.

A spokesman for the union representing social workers said none of the budget proposals “provide sufficient funding to protect children and support families.”

Polanowicz said the report cost the state $150,000.

Former Commissioner Olga Roche resigned under pressure from lawmakers last month after the deaths of two other children who were being monitored by state child welfare officials.

Spears said the challenges facing the agency are more endemic than a single individual.

Polanowicz said a search is continuing to replace Roche and that interim DCF Commissioner Erin Deveney is included in that search.

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