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A report released Wednesday by the Massachusetts auditor’s office says the Department of Children and Families was not meeting some of its most basic requirements.
The audit investigated the agency from July 2010 through September 2012.
During that time frame, the report says the DCF did not ensure children received medical screenings when placed in the agency’s custody.
The DCF responded to that criticism by announcing the creation of a new data-sharing system with Medicaid, which would prevent documents from slipping through the cracks and ensure documents from both agencies are accurate and current.
The audit also criticized the agency, which has come under increased scrutiny since the disappearance of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, for not keeping proper documentation to prove background checks were conducted before children were placed in foster homes.
"While we know background checks are being completed, we know we can do more to ensure we are retaining the necessary hard copy documentation for those checks," Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz said in a statement in response to the audit.
The report discovered at least 25 instances when the home address for children in DCF care matched that of someone on the sex offender registry.
According to the report, DCF officials said none of the 25 individuals actually lived in the same physical house as children in DCF care and “they could not substantiate that the children living at the 25 residences had experienced any abuse.”
Jason Stephany, a spokesman for the union that represents DCF social workers, said that data is misleading.
"You may have situations where a sex offender lives in the same apartment building ... as another child," Stephany said. "In those cases, families are made aware of those situations to make sure they take the appropriate precautions. But there are no situations right now where a child is residing with a sex offender ... to DCF's knowledge."
Stephany also questioned the relevance of the audit. He said the report's findings, particularly regarding background checks and medical records, are dated and not accurate in the current climate.
"You know, it is 18-months old at best," Stephany said. "We are focused on the issues that impact child safety today in March of 2014, not the least of which is the ever-worsening caseload crisis."
The Department of Children and Families has hired 90 additional social workers this year to help alleviate employees overburdened with heavy caseloads. The agency says it plans to hire an additional 177 by July.
This article was originally published on March 26, 2014.
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