Gov. Charlie Baker announces overhaul of how DCF handles child abuse cases

Baker announced an update to the agency’s 30-year-old intake policy and a first-ever supervisor policy.

Governor Charlie Baker announced major changes to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), including new rules for accepting cases, on Tuesday.

The department’s intake policy, which hasn’t been updated in 30 years, will change the way reports of child abuse are screened and investigated, and a new supervisor policy will support the agency’s social workers.

“The new intake and supervisor policies that DCF is announcing today represent the first step in a much needed systemic reform of DCF policies and practices,’’ said Baker in a statement released Tuesday. “These new policies provide the framework for DCF to be responsive and accountable in its mission to protect every child we serve in every way we can.’’

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Changes to the intake policy include reviewing and screening non-emergency reports in one day rather than three days. Emergency reports will continue to require a response within 2 hours. Reports will be reviewed in a local DCF office by a screening team comprised of social workers, supervisors, and managers.

Response workers will continue to interview parents, caregivers, and children in the home, and information about the child and caregiver’s prior DCF involvement will also be reviewed. Household members over the age of 15, including a household’s parents or caregivers, will undergo CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information), SORI (Sexual Offender Record Information), and national criminal history database checks.

Social workers will request from police all 911 reports relevant to the children in abuse reports. And, for the first time, they can search online sources for information having to do with a child’s safety.

The supervisor policy will require each social worker receive one hour per week of individual supervision and one hour per month of group supervision.

“For years, front-line child protection workers have called for safer caseloads, clear policies and consistent oversight practices that are so vital to the work we do,’’ said social work supervisor Peter MacKinnon, DCF Chapter President of SEIU Local 509, in a statement released Tuesday. “While addressing the caseload crisis remains a top priority, these reforms mark an important first step in our shared effort to bring a common sense, safety-focused approach to the Department of Children & Families.’’

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The changes come in the wake of high-profile cases involving DCF, including the death of Bella Bond.

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