Gov. Patrick is to create an Office of the Child Advocate that will track cases of child abuse and neglect, and that will oversee the Department of Social Services, Department of Youth Services, and other agencies with responsibilities relating to children. This is a good idea, especially given the problems we have had with the performance of our state agencies. Such oversight authorities have already been set up in some other states. There is justified hope that this new office may improve the competence and effectiveness of our state agencies. See today's Boston Globe article on this news by Andrea Estes: Patrick order will create watchdog child advocate office - The Boston Globe, December 20, 2007, by Andrea Estes
"Governor Deval Patrick today will create the state's first Office of the Child Advocate, a watchdog with power to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect and to monitor state agencies that provide services to children, state officials said yesterday.
The office will not have the broad powers of child advocates in some other states, who can issue subpoenas, hold public hearings, and even sue state agencies.
Nonetheless, Massachusetts child welfare advocates said it was an important move after a spate of high-profile abuse and neglect cases in recent years.
'Finally,' said MaryLou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 'You need someone who can ask tough questions and has the backing of the governor. The office of child advocate is in response to a series of tragedies and legislative oversight hearings. There's no question about it.'
The state agency that handles foster care, the Department of Social Services, has come under fire for several high-profile tragedies in recent years. In 2005, 4-year-old Dontel Jeffers died at the hands of his foster mother. Haleigh Poutre was left comatose in 2005 after a beating by her adoptive mother, who was under DSS supervision. And 4-year-old Rebecca Riley of Hull died after being given an overdose of psychotropic medications in 2006 by her parents, who had been monitored by DSS...."
For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the Massachusetts Divorce & Family Law Page of my law firm website.