COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 29, 2017
Senator Lovely’s Bill to Improve Massachusetts Foster Care System Heard by Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities
(Boston) – This week, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities heard S61, An Act establishing the Massachusetts Foster Care Review Office, of which Senator Joan Lovely is the lead Senate sponsor.
This legislation would establish an external and independent Foster Care Review Office outside of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This office would conduct external reviews of individual permanency plans to ensure that the placements are safe and appropriate for the child and that the child is getting all necessary services. The independent review office would have the authority to ensure foster care review determinations and recommendations are implemented and followed-up on. In addition, the Foster Care Review Office would be required to submit annual reports to a variety of state entities. These reports would include aggregate data from the foster care reviews and recommendations regarding the system strengths, issues, and policy concerns.
“Children and young adults involved in the Commonwealth’s foster care system deserve an independent review process both at the individual case level and to address systemic issues in our foster care system,” stated Senator Joan Lovely.
Under federal law, states that receive federal funds are required to have a foster care review system to provide oversight and ensure that each child’s permanency plan is reviewed at least every six months. In most states, this review is conducted by a system that is independent of the state’s child welfare organization. In Massachusetts, foster care review is a separate but internal department in the Department of Children and Families. Housing the foster care review operation in DCF creates challenges and potential conflicts of interest for ensuring a robust and independent review with transparency, accountability, and oversight.
“Our children in foster care deserve to have an independent evaluation of their placement in order to ensure that we are serving their best interests. Creating an independent Foster Care Review Office will ensure better outcomes for all children in foster care in Massachusetts,” added Senator Lovely.
Over an hour of testimony was provided in support of the bill. Those that offered testimony included Jane Lyons, Executive Director of Friends of Children/The Children’s Union; June Ameen, The Children’s Union and volunteer foster care reviewer; Erin Bradley, Executive Director of the Children’s League; Ken Eisentein, Court Appointed Special Advocates Volunteer; and foster families and former foster children.