Mass. Gov. Patrick: 2 Fired DCF Employees Were in the Wrong - NECN

Mass. Gov. Patrick: 2 Fired DCF Employees Were in the Wrong



    Mass. Gov. Patrick: 2 fired DCF employees were in the wrong

    The Social Workers Union says this may be a result of overworked employees (Published Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014)

    (NECN: Kathryn Sotnik) - Governor Deval Patrick says there's "no excuses" and supports the firing of a state social worker and her supervisor in the case of a missing Fitchburg, Mass. child.

    The Department of Children and Families says the social worker was required to visit the 5-year-old boy and his siblings every month. However, state officials say the last time the social worker actually saw Jeremiah Oliver was six months ago, back in May.

    Investigators are treating Oliver's disappearance as a possible homicide.

    His mom and her boyfriend are now behind bars on child abuse charges.

    "In this case, from what we can tell, at least the social worker and the social worker's supervisor messed up," said Governor Patrick.

    DCF commissioner Olga Roche reluctantly agreed to meet with reporters Wednesday to explain why the social worker wasn't making her monthly visits.

    Roche says it comes down to "a social worker who did not follow policy, and a supervisor who did not enforce the policy," but the union representing social workers has criticized the firings, claiming it may be a situation of overworked workers.

    NECN has confirmed this social worker had 18 cases.  The federal recommendation is 12 to 15.

    NECN also found the North Central DCF office, which covers Fitchburg, has 2049 cases, making it the second busiest DCF office in the state with 6 percent of the state's cases.

    Out of those, 363 children are in DCF placement.

    "Again, this is not a workload issue, this is a social worker very experienced knowing her role," said Roche.

    Governor Patrick said, "When they mess up, then the hammer is going to have to come down."

    NECN has learned the social worker in this case received a call from Oliver’s preschool earlier this year, saying his mother had told school staff he was moving to Florida to live with his grandmother.

    The investigation began back in September when Oliver’s 7 year old sister went to school and allegedly said her mother's new boyfriend had been beating them, and that no one had seen her brother in months.