New Child Advocate Faces Big Deadline

Just days on the job as the new head of the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate, Maria Mossaides is already fully engaged in her work.

"What we do is sort of do a higher level of monitoring and evaluation," she explained.

It is work that will be scrutinized in the coming months as she investigates and reports on a series of high profile cases including Bella Bond, the two-year-old whose body was found on Deer Island over the summer, allegedly killed by her mother's boyfriend. Mossaides says the report will be released sometime next week.

Moussaides, who is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor, testified Tuesday in support of legislation that would require, not just the Governor but also the Attorney General and the State Auditor to jointly appoint the child advocate for a five year term.

Moussaides says it is not uncommon for this type of agency to be more independent- while still accountable within government- but Mossaides adds, "Gives you a little bit of cushion from any potential political influence.

Asked if she felt the agency has had pressure applied, political or otherwise from the Governor's office- Moussaides was clear.

"That has not happened. I think this is a really more of sort of a future safeguard, because we don't know who the next actors in this are going to be," Moussaides said.

Mossaides says the opioid epidemic is responsible in part for the increasing number of children in need of state services and she says the state is still trying to rebuild the Department of Children and Families following the post 2008 recession cuts.

"We clearly recognize that until all the fixes are in place, that there may be instances in which something will happen and I think everyone is tremendously concerned about that," she added.

Governor Baker has not said if he is supporting that bill that would give the office more independence but says he is looking forward to working with the legislature to strengthen safeguards for vulnerable children.  

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