Patience, analysis, needed in DCF review
To the editor:
Gov. Deval Patrick has directed an external review of operations within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Legislature is conducting its own series of hearings into the same matter.
Massachusetts, a state that used to ranking highly in relation to other states, is now ranked either near or at the bottom of the barrel in caring for at-risk children. The Boston Globe recently reported that Massachusetts ranked 38 out of 50 states in the percent of foster children visited each month by caseworkers, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the most recent data available. In the category of children not mistreated again within six months, the state ranked 45th. In terms of moving foster children between homes, not providing children stability, Massachusetts ranked 44th. In regard to response times to reports of child abuse, Massachusetts was one of five states that failed to report data to the federal government because it had no centralized system for tracking abuse or neglect cases.
While United States District Court Judge William G. Young recently declined to compel Massachusetts to take measures to correct deficiencies in its foster care system in response to a lawsuit, he was highly critical of the commonwealth’s performance. The judge blamed problems largely on lack of funding, rather than mismanagement: The agency’s budget fell from a high of $836.5 million in fiscal 2009 to $737.1 million in fiscal 2012, resulting in 200 fewer caseworkers in the DCF’s ranks while caseloads expanded.
This said, however, internal mismanagement is also a significant problem. For example, many of the very serious shortcomings at DCF (failure to ensure home visits, or failure to respond to repeated reports of child abuse received from a public school) can be attributed, at least in great part, to the fact that the information systems in use to manage cases are badly antiquated and not capable of adequately supporting the case work. It is clearly the responsibility of management to demand and acquire adequate tools for its employees to use.
The vast majority of DCF caseworkers are hard-working and dedicated individuals whose case outcomes can likely be greatly improved through the use of better tools that prevent vital records and information from falling through the cracks. Better systems would free supervisors’ time for “hands-on” training and supervision of their caseworkers in the field. When dealing with human behavior, and a matter of such extreme importance, a second set of human eyes to crosscheck is a required oversight that is currently not occurring to the extent necessary within the DCF. In deciding whether or not to take custody of a child from parents, we have to be sensitive to the fact that an error in either direction, taking custody or not, can potentially have catastrophic consequences for a child.
Patience and the analysis of the independent audits are critical to making effective changes in DCF operations.
State Rep. Linda Campbell
The simplest deer hunt is the best
To the editor:
Last summer an old friend called to say that I was welcome to come along with him and a couple of his friends on a guided deer hunting trip.
Interested in what he had to say, I listened intently to all of my old hunting partner’s plans. But as good as his hunting trip sounded I neither have the financial resources or the stamina to enjoy so much organized exuberance for six days.
Deer hunting, like most everything else seems to have changed dramatically during my modest lifetime. I think that all kinds of hunting are enjoyable but I’ve always liked still-hunting with one of my old, iron-sighted lever carbines best. I don’t know where the term “still-hunting” originated but it is an old way of hunting by slowly walking through the forest, occasionally stopping to look around in some promising place, hoping to spot that elusive whitetail buck.
I taught all my children to target shoot at an early age using an old .32-40 caliber 1894 lever action carbine to instill in their malleable young minds the power of even a relatively mild rifle round. Children start off on empty, so-to-speak and they just can’t be told that something is dangerous all the time without a little honest direction. I suppose though, that many residing in this nice blue state will probably disagree.
Support Eyring for School Board
To the editor:
I cannot think of a more qualified, honest and passionate person to elect to the Windham School Board (or any board) than Ken Eyring. From programs to organized informative meetings, Ken demonstrates thorough planning, unending patience, leadership listening and common sense practicality.
Ken does not seek attention or accolades but acts more in the interest of a resident with a vested interest in growing a healthy, thriving, ethical community. Through cooperative actions, Ken seeks accountability and pursues balanced common sense in all activities. This approach led him to help found the Educational Choices Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to bring a charter school to Windham.
This initiative would solve the crowding issues at Windham Middle School and bring additional classroom space for over 300 students, provide a challenging, educational alternative to our community -- all at little to no additional cost to Windham taxpayers. As a commitment to efforts to secure a position on the board, Ken prior to announcing his candidacy to run for the School Board, resigned from the ECF to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
We could not be more fortunate then to have Ken Eyring represent Windham residents on the School Board. Please vote for Ken this March 11.