Child Welfare Efforts Under Spotlight in Massachusetts Governor’s Race

Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker sparred Monday over their records protecting children

The latest line of attack in the Massachusetts governor's race originated from Democrat Martha Coakley's running mate.

Lieutenant governor candidate Steve Kerrigan blasted Republican Charlie Baker for failing in the 90s to give children in state care the resources they needed when he was head of Health and Human Services in the Weld administration.

"Caseloads spiraled out of control under Charlie Baker forcing social workers to mount a legal challenge to try to force him to take action," Kerrigan said.

It didn't take long for Coakley to jump in, saying Baker made a decision back then to return about $2 million earmarked for DCF back to the general fund.

"He is the only one in the race who could have provided more funding and more opportunity for DCF to do the job he needed to do and he didn't do it," Coakley said.

The charge comes less than a week after a super PAC supporting Baker released a TV ad slamming Coakley for not doing enough to protect children as attorney general.

Baker has refused to disavow the ad, which has served to galvanize Coakley supporters such as Peter MacKinnon, a 20-year veteran of the Department of Children and Families and head of the DCF union.

"So even when he was given the chance to fix this colossal mess at DCF - a mess he played a role in creating - Charlie Baker's priorities were elsewhere," MacKinnon said.

Asked for his reaction, Baker seemed caught of guard and didn't deny the re-allocation of funds. But the campaign says Baker cleaned up the mess at DCF, added social workers and resources and was applauded by the Boston Globe for his successful turnaround of the agency.

"We were hiring social workers during that particular period of time as quickly as we could find qualified people to take the positions and then, at the end of the year, we ended up with a little bit of an overage... Added a lot of people," Baker said.

The Coakley campaign clearly thinks it has the upper hand on this issue and with Democrats now digging into Charlie Baker's record during his time as head of HHS, the Republican Governor's association may start questioning the effectiveness of their ad. 

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