The needless and horrible deaths of many children under state supervision place in clear and stark relief the question: What are the ends of our state government currently and what should they be?
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is itself an un-fostered child, with all too often Dickensian outcomes. This is not mere metaphor: The recent deaths are no different from those of a darker and more sordid past.
DCF is low-down on the budget rung; it has been kept in the shadows of state government; and it has been lacking a clear program of keeping children safe and healthy. All of us must demand that our state leaders end this systematic neglect and abuse of those children who clearly are in need of help.
What is needed is the political will, commitment, and sustained determination to establish a carefully planned system, with all the money and resources required, that puts the highest priority on properly protecting every at-risk child.
Parents and other caretakers who sincerely struggle to care for their children under very difficult circumstances should be provided with all the necessary financial, medical, social and psychological support so they can meet the needs of their children. Such assistance will require substantial state financial and human resources.
However, when children are at risk from abusive and negligent adults, and when this risk cannot be immediately and safely corrected, then there must be no misguided effort to “keep the family together.” The life, safety, and health of the child must come first. Too many children have been injured or have died in order to “save” the family. In these situations the state must act to place the child with responsible care-takers.
The solution must not be exchanging one terrible parental situation for another. The state must set high standards for child placements. If a sufficient number of responsible and caring temporary and foster homes are not available, then the state must establish healthful and thriving group environments for children.
If parents are able to overcome their difficulties and provide a healthy environment for their child, then the child may be returned home under careful state supervision.
As a first step, more money is clearly needed. The governor cannot speak optimistically of reforming the system while at the same time refusing to provide the real money needed to do so. A sufficient number of caring and professional workers along with all the necessary support resources must be employed.
The governor has set a bottom line of “no new taxes,” even if it means that children continue to be abused and die. A great many of us cannot afford any new taxes. But higher income individuals and profitable corporations can certainly afford to help state government meet its responsibilities.
Jamaica Plain resident