State Rep. Dan Cullinane Participates in House Oversight Hearing into DCF Regarding the Disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver

Yesterday State Representative Dan Cullinane participated in the special House Post Audit and Oversight Committee hearing convened to investigate and demand answers from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families regarding the disappearance of five year old Fitchburg boy Jeremiah Oliver. Representative Cullinane joined his colleagues in aggressively questioning DCF Commissioner Olga Roche as to how DCF could have lost track of a child receiving services in the system who was last seen on May 20, 2013.

Representative Cullinane opened his questioning of Commissioner Roche with the following statement:

“I want to thank and commend Chairman Linksy and Chairwoman Kahn for their leadership and handling of this very serious, troubling, and sensitive matter. Before I begin I want to thank the thousands of dedicated social workers throughout the Commonwealth who selflessly do their job each day, serving the most vulnerable children in our State - whose career has been thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. From this tragedy it is our obligation to learn from and change what got us here. Commissioner Roche, as someone who is adopted, a situation like this at DCF is personal. I am deeply troubled and have grave concerns about what is happening at DCF that resulted in this awful tragedy.”

Among the questions Representative Cullinane asked Commissioner Roche were:

Is the Governor’s proposed DCF Budget Increase of $9.2 million dollars enough to implement the 15 families to 1 social worker agreement reached between DCF and the union? How long will it take to implement the 15 families ratio?

What triggers an internal red flag at DCF that caseloads may be too high and what is management’s protocol for dealing with individual social workers and regional offices reporting a high amount of grievances for unsafely high caseloads?

There were three individuals who were rightfully terminated for failure to perform their duties and responsibilities including: the social worker who failed to read the case file and who did not perform required visits and the manager/supervisor who knew the social worker was not carrying out her responsibilities but put in place any way to ensure she did in fact visit Jeremiah. What is the logic for why is the regional director, who was in charge of supervising the manager to ensure they were performing their managerial duties, is still employed?

The all-day hearing, featured testimony by invitation only from DCF Commissioner Olga Roche with DCF General Counsel Virginia Peel; a panel of DCF Staff; former judge Gail Garinger, the Childhood Advocate and Director of the Office of the Childhood Advocate; Chris Condon, political director of SEIU Local 509; and Peter McKinnon, DCF Chapter President of SEIU Local 509.

Representative Cullinane offered this statement with regarding to the inexcusable failings at DCF resulting in the disappearance of five year old Jeremiah Oliver:

“I am truly saddened by this entire situation. A five year old child is missing,” Cullinane said. “I am deeply troubled by the negligence and misconduct of all those involved at DCF and by the complete lack of managerial oversight to ensure that Jeremiah Oliver not just receive the services he needed but to ensure he was alive.” Cullinane continued, “I take very seriously the responsibility I have as a State Representative, and as a member of the committee charged with investigating what happened in this case to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.”