Key Rhode Island lawmakers are backing a change in the minimum requirements for the director of the state’s troubled Department of Children, Youth and Families, and more specifically: elimination of the requirement that the director have a master’s degree in social work.
The Associated Press canvassed the 50 states, the District of Columbia and all branches of the military and discovered that at least 786 children died of abuse or neglect in the U.S. in a six-year span in plain view of child protection authorities. Many states struggled to provide numbers. Secrecy often prevailed.
The RI Senate Task Force charged with investigating the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the two networks that provide services to DCYF families, has recommended that DCYF “monitor the networks more closely and be more involved with the families it serves” according to the Providence Journal. The task force offered 20 recommendations to improve DCYF.
At a Senate meeting to discuss Rhode Island’s budget deficits, DCYF Director Janice DeFrances proposed changes that would save nearly $1.6 million, against a projected deficit of $13.8 million for the Department. However, Ms. DeFrances stated to the Senate that costs for out-of-state placements, a delay in plans to establish an in-state group home for adolescent girls, and the loss of $3 million in federal dollars have all contributed to the current deficit.
The two non-profit networks, the Ocean State Network for Children and Families and the Rhode Island Care Management Network, that manage the over 2,700 children in the care of DCYF were supposed to cut costs and improve services. However, DCYF is now looking for $13.8 million dollars to manage budget shortfalls for the 2014Fiscal Year. According to Rhode Island’s Child Advocate, Regina Costa, Esq., “we can no longer afford this current system of care.”
“Rhode Island’s removal rate for teenagers in 2012 was 16.6 per 1,000 — three times the national median rate of 5.6 per 1,000, according to a report presented by Tracey Field”, a representative from the Casey Foundation. According to testimony by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to the Senate Task Force established to oversee DCYF, the Department is sending too many adolescents to live in group homes due to lack of time and resources for their caseworkers.
Care providers from non-profit agencies that work with DCYF testified before the Senate Task Force and stated that DCYF needs a state wide plan regarding their system of care and what they hope to accomplish. The providers also reported that there needs to be more early interventions regarding sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
In a press release from the Rhode Island General Assembly, the Senate formed a Task Force on DCYF and their associated Family Care Networks to “ensure that oversight and public accountability are maintained…”