Executive Order No. 494 has as a goal to protect the children involved with four agencies: DMR, DMH, DSS and DYS. That would be a change, as there is little oversight and little public scrutiny of any of these agencies unless or until something goes horribly wrong, and there are headlines about a child dying or being maimed.
The goal here is to head off those tragedies, and those headlines.
However, while there is strong language about protecting children, and the authority to “review any agency investigation” [Exec order 3.2], and receive complaints, and make reports, there is no subpoena power, and no apparent ability to do any form of quasi-judicial hearing.
At best, this position would potentially shed light on hidden corners of government that impact vulnerable children and families. That would be an improvement. But, as to how long it will take to staff this office, and how active it will be, only time – and funding will determine.
The Governor’s press release gives the aspirational standard for this new executive initiative:
Press Release concerning the Executive Order Establishing the Office of Child Advocate
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State House Boston, MA 02133
DEVAL L. PATRICK
TIMOTHY P. MURRAY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 20, 2007 CONTACT:
Governor Patrick Establishes Office of the Child Advocate
ew office to investigate and oversee agencies responsible for child welfare
BOSTON- Thursday, December 20, 2007-Governor Deval Patrick today signed an Executive Order establishing the Office of the Child Advocate responsible for investigation into critical incidents involving children in custody of or receiving services from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). “There is no government role more important than ensuring that children are protected,” said Governor Patrick. “The Office of the Child Advocate will be in a position to look at policies and practices across agencies so that the Commonwealth can best promote and protect the safety, health and wellbeing of our children.”
The Office of the Child Advocate will be part of EOHHS but will be fully independent. The Child Advocate is authorized to review any EOHHS agencies’ investigation of such an incident to conduct its own investigation as needed.
The child advocate’s independence from any individual agency will also ensure his or her ability to identify patterns and system-wide issues affecting services provided to children and make recommendations for improvement. Secretary Bigby and the commissioners of state agencies serving children believe that the Child Advocate is the most appropriate means of addressing potential systematic issues in the way the Commonwealth serves children. The Child Advocate will report annually to the Governor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate on priorities for children’s services and make recommendations about how the Commonwealth can better provide services to and for children.
“It’s critical that we do the very best we can for the children and families we serve,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. “The Child Advocate will serve as a watchdog to help us do that.”
The Child Advocate will be appointed by the Governor from a list of three well-qualified people recommended by an ad hoc group of advocates and experts in child welfare. The group is expected to provide its list to the governor by the end of February 2008.
for all of your posts providing information on these issues. I hope this will make your job easier in some ways?
Will this office be funded through the funds allocated to the executive office? If it is at all controlled by the Lege, the office remains a creature of it.
The Speaker will simply tell the governor to fund it out of his own pocket. Case closed.
A new beurocracy is born (a new shelter for homeless hacks?(like they dont already have enough places to lay out)) ….
Nomad’s comment could be directed at any government action whatsoever, at any attempt to address a serious problem.
p>The fact is that there have been far too many horror stories involving children under the care of these state agencies. Deval Patrick’s move is extremely welcome to anyone who cares about children. It may not go far enough; this office may need subpoena power, etc. But it is an excellent first step.
Life is about progress, not perfection. And saying “enough is enough” and taking what action the Executive can take.
p>I consider this not only a positive step, but one which continues momentum for change in the child welfare system, and keeps the effort to overhaul DSS, DYS, DMH and DMR all in play.
p>So what can we all do – PAY ATTENTION for starters.
p>As to making my “job” easier, I don’t have a “job”. I am self employed and tackle these issues sometimes for pay, and sometimes for no money at all.
p>No W2 income in MY life since, oh, 1981 or so.
Listen to you …
Overhaul the DSS, DYS, DMH and DMR?
Talk about an alphabet soup of worthless agencies .. so how does creating yet another layer on top of the existing redundant layers accomplish anything. I know, lets do a study on that and commision a new czar to oversee the study and present some reports to see the staffing level the new czar will need to enact the studys findiongs and perhaps with those results the study can be directed to a level never before imagined …
about the child care (and child abuse) problems that his action seeks to address?
p>Do you think he should simply ignore them?
p>If you don’t like what he did, and do not think these problems should be ignored, what would you suggest?
p>I am ready and eager to listen to alternate suggestions, that take into account the political realities of the governor’s limited power to act.
what the acronyms DSS, DYS, DMH and DMR stand for?
DSS = Department of Social Services – which SHOULD stand for strengthening families, nurturing children, and serving the citizenry.
p>DMR = Department of Mental Retardation – which SHOULD stand for supporting families who have a cognitively impaired member, providing job training and respite to families who must care for a child or adult child who cannot care for themselves, and provide facilities where congitively impaired citizens live in dignity and with as much independence as possible, in clean and safe environments.
p>DYS = Department of Youth Services – which SHOULD stand for serving youth in need, rehabilitating youth, and keeping youth who are a danger to themselves or others contained while they are healed in environments which are clean, safe, educational, and preserve human dignity.
p>DMH = Department of Mental Health – which SHOULD stand for serving those with chronic mental illness, a severe congenital constellation of organic diseases with educational, therapeutic and residential services which are clean, healing, and preserve human dignity.
I was asking Nomad. His comment about “alphabet soup” made me think that perhaps he was having trouble keeping all of them straight!
There are two ways of answering that one.
AP chose to answer it by saying what they should stand for.
The other way is more confusing … when you look at what they actualy stand for there isnt as much distinction between them, job security is similar everywhere.
Thank you for continuing to inform. Action has been long needed and if this can create some forward movement, then it is a good thing. Like most situations it will depend on the persons in the job, their skills, commitment and sustained executive pressure and backup. Let’s hope the Administration puts some of their high profile casino energy into this work.
Perhaps if people learned to speak English, spent less time drinking and doing drugs, got themselves a tubul ligation and vasectomy, worked two jobs, stopped getting knocked up—just perhaps the neglect of children will decline. But that’s asking too much. We must enable these rotten parents so that they can have more children to abuse and then justify some bureacrats job!
We give more government funds to domestic tobacco and alcohol companies to advertise at people, then cut funds to get them away from the habit. We watch the private sector rob people blind on housing, transport, and health to ensure that most people have to work two jobs. We run a prison system that has the practical effect of teaching one-time criminals how to make a career of it, before putting them back on the streets. Finally, we blame people for it all.
p>Maybe if we weren’t bleeding the public sector dry to give tax breaks to rich people and increase corporate welfare, they’d have the support the need.
What I don’t say here, I say here.
people you describe never learn to speak English, drink and abuse drugs more of the time, never get a tubul tubal ligation or a vasectomy, work only one job, and continue to have babies. Are you proposing society/government do nothing about that?
p>I suspect you are, which, of course makes me immediately sad for you because, in life, timing is everything. Why, imagine how much more fulfilled you’d have been if you’d lived in Dickensian London?
The governor by executive fiat creates this new agency and there is not a dime to pay for it. Boy was that a good move. And the foolish “It’s for the children.” Yes, we all want what is best for children. What about responsibility and consequence?
There used to be an Massachusetts Office for Children in the 80’s…is this a new version with a new name?
p>Will it have power to act or is it a press thing?
…under 16 years of Republican governors – and anti-poor folk, anti-children rhetoric disquised as tax cutting and a desire for smaller government. At one time the Office for Children had a real staff and monitored daycare, etc. Last I knew it either had one employee or was shut down.
p>Similarly, at one time the “Children’s Legislative Caucus” had five full time employees. Last year it had one half time employee – NOW it has none.
p>There are some folk, and some causes, that only government taking care of “the least of these” can perform. Capitalism benefits the strong only. Call us “The Land of the New Robber Barons” – and forget about the rest…
p>Children, disabled, chronically ill, infrastructure, infectious disease control – etc. – can only be addressed by collectively organized and funded action.
p>Tell me, MCRD, will vasectomies protect YOU from bird flu? Will learning English mean that no bridge or dam collapses under you from lack of maintenance?
p>Real governance requires the vision to see the need for maintenance, improvement, and collectively planned action – not cheap rhetoric about taxachusetts.
I remember when Office for Children was an active agency. Thanks for the info on its demise.
There has been a movement in this country for thirty plus years that essentially says, It’s Ok to be a single parent. It’s OK to be fourteen years of age and have sex,
(but use a condom) right! It’s Ok to have a child out of wedlock because the “village ” will raise your child. The cold reality is that at the end of the day, society does not want to care for someone elses “mistake”. Deborah, I have been to many third world countries. If you were witness to what other societies did to children you would change your tune. It’s pretty hard to believe.
p>Progressives have the temerity to talk about children one moment then beat the drum about abortion and third trimester abortion. have you ever seen a picture of a late term abortion—would you like me to post one? So please spare me the histrionics that I am some heartless bastard.
If I held absolute reign of power there would not be one parentless child. There would also be an investigation somilar to adoption prior to conceiving. Perhaps when our society ceases condoning all the activity resulting in children without consequence, perhaps that is when we will see a decline in the misery this practice weighs upon us.
First, the children are the victims here. Adults take care of children – and where you “break the cycle” is with how the child is treated, and the childs family [if there is one that is] are treated. Also, what does that have to do with DMR, or DMH?
p>I have lived and traveled in other countries. I have never found “it could be worse” an argument for doing less or doing nothing.
p>That leads me to the poor practice of using “straw men” in argumentation. Essentially what you have done is set up a construct that I did not use, that has no legs or gravity, and then knock it over. At the same time, you do not address the concerns or the executive order.
p>The problem with the straw men approach is that it does not convince anyone and destroys any credibility that you might have had.
p>For example, the Office for Children and the issues I discussed have nothing whatever to do with abortion. You also have no idea as to what my views or personal practices might be. That makes use of the “abortion” issue a “strawman” and essentially self defeating.
p>It is as though I called you a supporter of Barry Goldwater in order to attack your views! I don’t even know, of course, if you were alive when Goldwater ran for president. So that would be silly and self defeating of me, just as your off topic mudslinging is silly and self-defeating of you.
One, the use of Executive Orders (EOs) to organize the executive branch are well known. They are used at the federal level (both by Dem and Repub adminitrations) quite often. They are considered legal as long as the organizaation is not contrary to statute.
p>Two, I presume that this new Office will be in the nature of an Inspector General of DSS, HHS, or whatever it’s called here in MA.
p>Three, I presume that the funding for the new office will come from the respective agancy’s current funding. In the next funding go-round with the legislature, the legislature could decide to line-item the office out, but it’s probably highly unlikely that they would want to go to that extreme of line-iteming.