Among the recommendations were: significantly lower caseloads for social workers, multi-disciplinary teams, more mental health services, intensive community based services for families and no managed care in child welfare. It called for more support for foster parents, medical and mental health services and the training of DSS investigators in forensic investigations. These were successfully placed on the legislative shelf beside the previous Special Commission on Foster Cares recommendations.
In 2007 the legislature and administration find themselves faced with a renewed outcry about the problems at DSS. In 2006 a Governor?s Panel said that DSS needed multi-disciplinary teams to help with complicated medically involved cases (that seems to have been said before) a replacement of the nurses laid off in 1994 with no in house medical expertise. And most shockingly it found that DSS did not have enough social workers in the western region to handle the number of cases. (as an aside, the situation in western Massachusetts has deteriorated since the Panel report was issued).
Well, something had to be done. Legislative hearings followed. Professionals testified, children some now adults testified almost all called for more money for services, professional level caseloads (Child Welfare League of America Standards), more time for them to do their job. Multi-disciplinary teams (not consultants) were again called for.
As a result of these hearings H4191 came into existence. It creates a new Department of Children and Families and establishes new Secretariat of Child Welfare. There is a new board on Child Abuse Prevention. To be fair it does extend the time frame of investigations to 15 working days. This timeline change has been requested for over 10 years.
There is no funding increase to lower dangerously high caseloads. This issue, danger and call for reform started in 1987. Still as I write 45% of DSS social workers are over what should be the maximum of 18 families. And 79% are over the maximum demanded in 1993 by a second Commission on Foster Care.
Instead of support and time to do the job, instead of more in home services for families and support for foster parents we get a name change. And we get increased blame on social workers.
If nothing else the legislature is consistent.