To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
(NECN/AP) - Police in Massachusetts only recently learned that a boy whose family had been getting state social-services help has been missing since September, leading to charges against the child's mother and her boyfriend and the firing of a social worker and the worker's supervisor.
Investigators say 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver was last seen by relatives Sept. 14 but police only learned recently of his disappearance. A prosecutor is treating Jeremiah's case as a possible homicide, and Department of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche called it a "deeply concerning case of neglect and abuse."
The Fitchburg boy's family had been receiving services from the department since the fall of 2011 after the agency received a report of neglect.
In June, the social worker received a message from Jeremiah's day care indicating that his mother had said it was his last day and he would be leaving for Florida to live with his grandmother, officials said. But the social worker didn't confirm the information and also failed to conduct required checks, they said.
"This case represents a serious failure on the part of the social worker and supervisor assigned to the family," Roche said in a written statement Tuesday. "The social worker assigned to this case did not conduct the required in-person, monthly checks on the family, as required by the Department; and the supervisor failed to enforce that policy."
Roche said the two employees, whose names were not disclosed, "have been terminated."
She said the social worker's and the supervisor's other cases are currently under review and the department is working with State Police and prosecutors on the missing boy's case.
The union that represents the DCF case workers spoke out, instead pointing fingers at Roche.
Spokesperson Jason Stephany said, "We're incredibly disappointed that Commissioner Roche has chosen to engage in fingerpointing instead of accepting responsibility for yet another tragedy on her watch."
Stephany said the commissioner should be more focused on what he calls a DCF caseload crisis in Central Massachusetts.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.