Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is pushing back against an audit that claimed the state's child welfare agency failed to detect or report hundreds of injuries to children in its care.
In a letter Monday to employees of the Department of Children and Families, Baker says it was "irresponsible" for Democratic Auditor Suzanne Bump to rely on data that was 2 to 3 years old and discuss the findings as if they reflected current circumstances.
Baker says the report ignored great strides made by the agency in recent years, including the hiring of 350 new social workers.
The governor was also skeptical of the auditor's recommendation that DCF monitor Medicaid claims data to identify potential abuse of children, though he said the administration would look into using it as a "secondary information tool."
Bump responded to Baker's comments Monday, calling his statement "political." She said the public should not consider Baker's statement, but DCF's own acknowledgement that the circumstances that gave rise to the audit's findings have not changed.
"The Governor is denying a reality that DCF itself does not dispute," she added.
The report released by Bump last week focused on 19 serious incidents that were not reported where children in foster care and other state-supervised settings were harmed.
The audit said from 2014 to 2015, DCF was unaware of 260 incidents of what appeared to be serious bodily injury to children in its care.
The incidents included a 15-year-old with brain damage from a firearm injury, a 1-year-old with first-and second-degree burns, and a 12-year-old with multiple head contusions that a doctor determined were the result of an assault.
The audit also found that the DCF was not categorizing incidents involving sexual abuse as critical incidents. Therefore, these incidents were not reported to the Office of the Child Advocate, which is charged with ensuring that children in state care receive safe and effective services.
Bump's office found 118 incidents of sexual abuse of a child in DCF care that were not reported.
These incidents included two male employees at different DCF-contracted residential facilities who sexually abused three girls each; a 10-year-old who was raped by his father; a 4-year-old who was sexually abused by her mother; and a 17-year-old who was gang-raped by five assailants.
In one case, a male who had sexually abused one child abused the child’s sibling less than one year later.