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Audit Finds DCF Maintains Condition Where 'Risks Can Become Reality'

BOSTON (CBS) -- A new report issued by State Auditor Suzanne Bump calls for sweeping change to the Department of Children and Families to protect children in foster care.

The report released Wednesday found that DCF maintained incomplete background checks on some of the people living in foster homes and it had not been conducting checks for level 2 and 3 registered sex offenders before placing children in foster care locations.

"DCF front-line workers and managers need better guidance and better tools in order to effectively protect the children entrusted to their care," said Bump. "The kind of accountability that this office needs and the public wants to see requires planning, oversight, and access to additional information and technology at the front end, not just acceptance of responsibility for something gone wrong."

Read: Full Report On DCF

The audit looked at July 2010 through September 2012 and says DCF was incompletely collecting and documenting key information relative to children and their foster placements. Because of this, management was not able to monitor how the agency was being run.

The audit was conducted before Fitchburg boy Jeremiah Oliver went missing. DCF was supposed to be checking on Oliver, around the time he went missing.

The incomplete data created an environment where "risks could become realities," the report states.

Among the findings outlined in the report, Bump says DCF has not updated its department-wide risk assessment for eight years, meaning the agency is not identifying significant risks and taking steps to mitigate them; DCF was not ensuring children were receiving required medical screenings and examinations once placed in custody. Also, DCF workers don't have access to MassHealth data and cannot ensure the screenings have been performed.

Because DCF could not provide auditors with a complete list of foster placements for which background check waivers had been issued, Bump initiated an additional limited-scope audit of DCF to further examine its process of granting background check waivers to licensed foster homes, the report states.

In a statement Wednesday, the agency said it's making changes, by increasing child medical visits and enhancing documentation of foster care and employee background checks.

According to DCF, in a review of all foster homes,  there are no children in DCF placement living with a sex offender.

"We are working day-in and day-out to enhance our ability to protect children and strengthen families," said DCF Commissioner Olga Roche. "Working with our partners to improve services and providing field staff with the resources they need is central to achieving our agency's mission."


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