Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MASSACHUSETTS’ DCF, RESIGNATIONS AND YOU

Well, it has been quite a week for Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families.

Earlier in the week, I was going to write about, what was then the latest fiasco, You see, Grafton Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau Jr. was angry..

Chief Crepeau was angry because felt that DCF was trying to escape blame by shifting it over to his officers.

It was the tragedy of 4-week-old Andrea Lavigne, which was shortly followed by the discovery of the body of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver , is at the center of DCF’s biggest “hot potato” fiasco.

Crepeau said officers responded to the home of 4-week-old Aliana Lavigne on April 3, days before her death on April 11, and sent a fax to DCF reporting possible abuse or neglect at the child’s home.

Apparently, DCF misplaced the fax for six days. DCF, however, pointed the finger back to the police explaining that there should have been a telephone call, not a fax.

And so it went back and forth between the two state agencies as this girl was mourned as well as a soon-to-be discovered other child who was dead before DCF got over to check in on her.

In the meantime as the bodies piled up, there were even more cries for the DCF Commissioner, Olga Roche to resign. To read the general reasons for these demands, one would imagine the only problem with DCF is its seeming ineptitude in supervising children already in its grip. Of course, in order to come to that conclusion, you would have to ignore cases like the nightmare of Justina Pelletier which, frankly, more regularly reflects the DCF nightmare on a daily basis.

The problem is that harassed or broken families do not claim the headlines as do dead children. They do not help in dealing with, preventing children who become juvenile delinquents.

Well, this past Tuesday, Ms. Roche finally succumbed and resigned her post. At least temporarily, there is a new Acting Commissioner at the helm. Very new. New to the entire child welfare industry. She does have experience in state transportation, however, so she should at least be able to transport case workers over to home more often.

Meanwhile, the new controversy on everyone’s mind is that the former commissioner is still “on the job” and getting paid. She is acting in an advisory role…at least for now.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Real Changes In DCF

As any regular reader of this blog knows, I have been a fairly vicious critic of DCF. On almost a daily basis, I have seen people and families broken for no logical reason. I have seen the rights of parents thrown out the window like yesterday’s trash. I have seen a department much more concerned with seeming “right” than the actual welfare of children or families.

That is not to say I have not also come across some workers, supervisors and Hearing Officers who do use common sense and actually seem to care about the families involved. Alas, that has been the vast minority.

I am not interested in kicking someone who has just resigned from office. People, sometimes very dedicated people, make horrible mistakes. Further, Ms. Roache has only held this office for approximately one year. The travesties of which I speak regarding DCF have been around much longer. Our society likes easy fixes as I have often opined. Send more funding! Hire more people! Make the top person resign! These solutions sound very dramatic and can be very comforting when dealing with emotional issues. Unfortunately, at least in this case, they are unlikely to be the true solution.

The problems with DCF go far beyond A particular commissioner, how much money is given to the agency and how many people work for the agency. It is it its priorities.

If I give $1 million to a particular agency and tell it to watch area families and make sure they do not beat their children they might be able to do that. However, if they spend A great deal of the resources and personnel in concentrating on whether these people have any disagreements with people outside of the home, there is likely to be A lack of resources.

The “wisdom” in tearing some families apart and snatching parental rights from perfectly loving and caring parents, sometimes for the benefit of its body Boston Children’s Hospital, is not in the best interests of children or families. Its decisions to do that, often making it up as it goes along and other time hearing to its own “policies” which make little sense under the circumstances are not only the danger to families but the reason DCF finds itself without enough resources. In my opinion the word “Waste” is appropriate. Or even something worse.

So what does this, and all my rantings about DCF, have to do with you?

These are the folks who can take away your children with very little reason. While the court may give you some kind of chance, do not expect even the slightest appearance of a level playing field.

Do not see the recent changes as a sure all for the problem. Until significant changes in attitude and policy occur within DCF, you when your children are in danger. Most of us have been brought up to trust in government agencies and so lower your guard when they come calling. Further, when law enforcement and/or DCF workers come to you, they will do their best to underscore that lesson. You, of course, will be in fear and want to trust them.

Hook, line and sinker.

Once again I remind you, do not go it alone. Find experienced counsel to represent you at the earliest possible moment. In my experience, that is often someone with experience as a criminal defense attorney.

At least, in this case, this is what we do.

For the original story upon which this blog is based, please go to http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/04/police_chief_dcf_trying_to_dodge_blame and http://www.wggb.com/2014/05/01/fmr-dcf-commissioner-olga-roche-remains-with-the-agency/

Next: We return to your “situation” begun earlier this week

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