EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 17, 2014

Editorial: Patrick, Roche must accept responsibility for missing boy

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — When the deliberate acts or negligence of parents cause something bad to happen to a child, we hold those parents responsible.

So it is that Elsa Oliver and her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra Jr., stand accused of child endangerment, abuse and other charges as a result of the disappearance of Oliver’s 5-year-old son Jeremiah.

The Fitchburg boy hasn’t been seen since September and is feared dead. His mother told his day care center Jeremiah had gone to Florida.

Oliver and Sierra have pleaded innocent; Oliver is held on $100,000 bail and Sierra without bail.

They’re being held accountable for the boy’s disappearance.

So how is it that Olga Roche, the head of the state agency responsible for looking out for the best interests of Jeremiah Oliver, is not being held accountable, too?

Roche’s agency, the Department of Children and Families, took responsibility for supervising the Oliver family after reports of abuse.

Yet it went months without checking on the well-being of Jeremiah, ignoring multiple warning signs that he was in trouble. Now he’s gone. Other failures to protect children have since turned up.

Three lower-level DCF employees have been fired and a fourth disciplined.

But their boss, Olga Roche, and her boss, Gov. Deval Patrick, refuse to accept any responsibility for what happened to Jeremiah on their watch.

In fact, Patrick has come to the defense of Roche.

Last week, two dozen legislators sent a letter to Patrick calling for the resignation of Roche.

We only wonder where were the other 176 members of the House and Senate.

The letter was co-authored by state Rep. Leah Cole, a Republican from Peabody. Local signatories included state Reps. Brad Jones, R-North Reading, and James Lyons, R-Andover.

Where was the rest of the local delegation?

Patrick, as is his habit, was more concerned about the sensitivities of his bureaucrats and cronies than about the children he and his agencies are charged with protecting.

Our blase chief executive, fresh from a vacation in Switzerland, had his minions release statements from advocates praising Roche.

He also told a TV reporter that Roche has lots more experience with and knowledge of child welfare issues than those who have called for her resignation.

She also has far more missing and abused children on her resume than her critics do.

Oh, well.

Or as Patrick said in response to the firestorm of criticism:

“Well, I hear it and I understand it, it’s kind of a customary thing in politics that when someone or something goes wrong people call for someone’s head on a platter.”

Well, yes, governor, it’s customary, and even proper, in politics and out, to hold someone accountable when something goes not just wrong but horribly wrong on their watch, like losing track of an abused 5-year-old in your care. At least, it used to be.

It’s time for Roche to go.