State House News Service

Patrick Controlling ‘Outrage’ On Case Of Missing Fitchburg Boy

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick said late Wednesday that he is controlling his “outrage” at a dangerous family situation that may have devolved into murder, and he’s “disappointed” in the statements of a social worker’s union that blamed understaffing for the situation.

“I respect that union, but I was very, very disappointed in that statement. There’s no excuse,” Patrick told reporters at the State House.

The Department of Children and Families fired a caseworker and a supervisor Tuesday for failing to check up on the family of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who has been missing since September in what investigators are now treating as a possible homicide.

“A social worker who has a responsibility like this one in this case to make regular, monthly eyes-on visits who doesn’t do it and doesn’t say that the reason it isn’t getting done is because of short staffing doesn’t have an excuse in my view,” Patrick said.

He said state government’s child advocate is conducting an “independent review,” and left open the possibility of changes in the Department of Children and Families.

“I think it’s too soon to answer that question. I think the folks who work at DCF have the hardest jobs . . . My heart goes out to them,” said Patrick. “When they mess up, then the hammer’s going to have to come down.”

Patrick said he is “very worried” about Jeremiah and focusing his outrage. “My job is to get the facts, to control my outrage and direct it to where the responsibility lies,” Patrick said.

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