Death Of 2-Year-Old Foster Child In Auburn Raises Questions About Mass. Foster Care

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There are renewed concerns about Massachusetts' foster care system after a 2-year-old foster child died over the weekend in Auburn.

In an investigation launched by state officials into the death of the young girl, named Avalena, it's been discovered that — since 2008 — emergency personnel responded to more than two dozen 911 calls at the foster home. However, most of the calls were made before the mother became a licensed foster parent.

DCF officials had visited the home just four days before Avalena died. At a news conference Monday, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mary Lou Sudders, said the visit had been routine.

She also responded to the question of whether state workers should have seen — during their visit — that something was wrong.

"I think that's an incredibly fair question," said Sudders. "But, I can't answer that today because, until we do a complete investigation, then we can make determinations as to whether this is culture, practice, caseloads, individuals behavior or organizational/cultural behavior."

So, what does this case tell us about Massachusetts' foster care system, two years after a federal judge reprimanded it?

Judge William G. Young called the futures of thousands of Massachusetts foster children "murkier than in most places in America."

He also found DCF had “failed not only to comport with national standards of care and state and federal requirements, but also to comply with its own internal policies” for protecting children in foster care.


Mary McGeown, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


The Boston Globe: How Does The Mass. Foster Care System Work?

  • "The death of a 2-year-old, the hospitalization of a 22-month-old, and the precautionary hospitalization of a 6-month-old, all of whom were in foster care at an Auburn home, have put a spotlight on how the foster care system in Massachusetts works and what it does to protect children."

WBUR: Baker Says Investigation Into Death Of Auburn Foster Child Is ‘All Hands On Deck’

  • "Gov. Charlie Baker says it’s “all hands on deck” with respect to finding out what happened to the Massachusetts foster child who died over the weekend."

This segment aired on August 18, 2015.


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