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Baker Announces DCF Reforms, Independent Review Of Baby Bella Case

BOSTON (CBS/AP) -- Gov. Charlie Baker announced a series of reforms for the Department of Children and Families Monday morning aimed at protecting children, and said there would also be an independent review of the Bella Bond case.

The governor said the agency will be updating its 12-year-old intake policy, which will involve CORI checks in all DCF cases, reviewing 911 calls made from DCF homes and assessing parental capacity. Baker also wants to reduce caseloads, increase the number of foster homes and examine all complex cases in the department.

DCF suffers from "mission confusion," according to the governor.

"The work that will be done from this point forward will focus on one major objective: To keep kids safe," Baker said. "We need to get it right."

The DCF Central Massachusetts Regional Office, which was eliminated six years ago due to budget cutbacks, will also be reestablished. A new supervisor policy will go into effect in November, and that will "include detailed, mandated steps for case review and management support necessary to working with all families," Baker's office said.

Last month, a 2-year-old girl in foster care died after being found unresponsive at an apartment complex in Auburn. The circumstances of the death are still being investigated.

Earlier this summer it was the case of Jack Loiselle, a 7-year-old Hardwick boy who police say was beaten and starved by his father before falling into a coma. A report found the Department of Children and Families failed to pull together multiple abuse reports to adequately protect the boy.

Then came the identification of Bella as the toddler whose body was found on a Boston-area beach in June. DCF said the agency had been involved with the girl twice when she was an infant in 2012 and 2013. The cases were then closed.

Bella Bond
Rachelle Bond's daughter Bella. (Facebook photo)

Her mother, Rachelle Bond, 40, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to Bella's death. Bond's boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, 35, is charged with murder for allegedly punching the girl in the abdomen until she stopped breathing.

Baker said on Tuesday that he's asked for an independent review of Bella's case by the independent Office of the Child Advocate.

All three echo the 2013 case of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy whose remains were found alongside a highway after social workers lost track of him.

The cases pose a unique challenge for Baker — a self-described policy wonk — who served as secretary of health and human services under then-Gov. William Weld in the 1990s.

As a candidate for governor last year, Baker cited the Oliver case in calling for the resignation of then-DCF Commissioner Olga Roche, appointed by former Gov. Deval Patrick.

Patrick initially resisted demands for Roche's resignation, saying he wanted to focus instead on overhauling the agency, but eventually relented.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Bernice Corpuz reports

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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