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April 30, 2014

Lawmakers call for reform of DCF following Roche resignation

BOSTON — State lawmakers are calling for an overhaul of Massachusetts’ child welfare agency following the resignation of the head of the department, who stepped down yesterday morning under mounting pressure following the deaths of three children.

Olga Roche’s resignation comes after calls from top Democratic lawmakers — including Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray — for Roche to be replaced as commissioner of the Department of Children and Families.

Her resignation was welcomed by local lawmakers, many of whom have been calling for Roche to step down for weeks even as Gov. Deval Patrick defended the embattled department head.

Sen. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, said Roche’s resignation was a “important step” in reforming the troubled state agency but said the legislature needs to take additional action to fix chronic problems with the child welfare system.

“DCF has systemic failures, and they demand sweeping reform to protect some of our state’s most vulnerable children and families,” said Tarr, the Senate’s Republican minority leader. “For the Legislature and the governor to leave these reforms undone in the wake of Roche’s departure would be a serious mistake and a disservice to our state.”

Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, echoed calls for reform at the state agency.

“We must all work together to restore the public’s trust in DCF and ensure they have the tools they need to carry out their mission and protect children in their care,” Finegold said.

Democratic House Speaker DeLeo said the Legislature is working to heighten oversight and increase funding for the state agency to reduce worker caseloads and invest in information technology.

“DCF is an agency in crisis; and we must immediately undertake the difficult, but crucial, task of creating an effective structure of protection and care for our most vulnerable children,” DeLeo said in a prepared statement on Roche’s resignation.

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