The Lowell Area Office handles all the children removed from homes and destitute, struggling, working poor and indigent parents – of Lowell. It moved from 33 E. Merrimack Street in Lowell, near parks and restaurants where parents could visit with their children and right on public transportation to Chelmsford. I checked the site in Chelmsford at 2 Omni Way, before the move, I found it a barren, inhospitable area with NO restaurants or anything else in walking distance – closest is a mile or more.
Is there a shuttle between Lowell and the DCF Office at 2 Omni Way? No. Is there a bus? Yes, Routes 129, 110 – no connection to the MBTA for parents who live in the MBTA catchment. LRTA 15 – it takes about an hour, and has a stop 400 or 500 feet away across a busy four lane road. Is there even a bus shelter to wait in? No. The closest commuter rail stop – North Billerica – is two miles from 2 Omni Way – and round trip is $25.00.
One way by Uber or Lyft is $15.00 – so $30 round trip for folks who are indigent, many destitute or living on disability. Yet 2 Omni Way is where all foster care reviews, almost all meetings with parents are required to be there, and all supervised visits [and DCF these days makes ALL visits supervised, at least for 6 months and often for years, even when there has been no abuse. Just poor school attendance, or “concerns” about a parent’s or child’s hygiene or mental health. One hour a week if the DCF worker isn’t too busy that is, for visitation – at 2 Omni Way if you can get there. One of my clients is currently waiting three weeks because some worker is on vacation in Italy.
Today I drove one of my clients to a foster care review at 2 Omni Way. That client has disabling spinal issues and uses a cane. DCF could not be bothered to fund her transportation, or help her apply for LRTA [Lowell Regional Transit Authority] ADA transport – called the Road Runner. I printed out the packet, and she assured me now she could handle it now that she had a copy. No she doesn’t have a printer. Given that when DCF removed the children due to their school attendance, mother lost her shelter housing. She lives in a rooming house now, and pays 95% of her disability for rent so lives on food pantry, and cannot always keep her phone on. Just one of many parents treated with callous, evil cruelty and disregard by DCF.
She cannot possibly afford Uber or Lyft – nor should she have to do so. There was no need to move to baronial quarters in a largely vacant office park and leave all the clients behind, and suffering. No need at all. And to have no park or visitation area except what looks like the rooms where I visit with incarcerated clients is shameful. The word “wrong” comes to mind.
I brought this situation up to a veteran legislator. She said “These parents should complain”. They have. They are complaining. So am I. But no one is listening and as far as I can tell, no one cares.
Parents will have their rights terminated for missing visits, missing reviews, not getting to meetings with workers – because a state agency moved to a huge, shiny, brutally inaccessible facility. Can’t we do better? General Laws 119 Chapter 1 says the mission of DCF is to save and help families. Someone should tell them! The Supreme Judicial Court tried, in Care and Protection of Walt.
What this move makes clear is that DCF is a government fraud. While claiming to assist, there is no attempt to assist families or nurture children evident in this move. Ergo – DCF has moved itself into the Eigth Circle of Hell. They are hypocrites because they call themselves helpers – but far too many DCF employees do not seem to care at all, nor do agency decisions benefit families. Putting their office where most of those they claim to help cannot even make their way is cruel, callous, and makes no sense.