A state audit has found that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families was often unaware of serious injuries to children under its care, and in some cases failed to report potential crimes against children to prosecutors.
The report, which covers the years 2014 and 2015, alleges DCF was unaware of 260 incidents. Some of these incidents include a teenager who suffered brain damage from a gunshot wound, a 1-year-old child who had first- or second-degree burns on multiple body parts and a 12-year-old with head contusions from an assault.
The report says some "critical incidents" involving children the agency was aware of should have been reported to district attorneys for possible prosecution, but were not.
When a "critical incident" occurs, DCF must inform the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), whose mission, according to its website, is “to ensure that every child involved with state agencies in Massachusetts is protected from harm and receives quality services."
DCF, however, does not consider sexual abuse as a critical incident. According to the audit, DCF officials said they believe sexual abuse does not necessarily include "extreme physical pain" or "protracted loss of impairment of mental faculty," making it not a serious bodily injury.
The audit found that 118 cases of sexual abuse that were not alerted to OCA.
The agency says it has initiated "significant system-wide reforms" and new policies in the two years since the audit period.
Boston 25 News reached out to the governor's office for comment:
“The information in this audit is not current as it began four years ago during the prior administration, and the Baker-Polito Administration began implementing a comprehensive overhaul of DCF reforms in 2015 to support the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children. While many of our reforms have already corrected or addressed concerns raised by the auditor, the department has increased its budget by over $100 million, hired nearly 400 new social workers and managers and implemented several new intake and management policies—including an improved DA referral process to require written citations of sexual assault allegations. The administration takes very seriously the well-being of children under DCF care and will continue to work closely with the department and other state agencies to ensure the safety of every child,” – Lizzy Guyton, communications director.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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