Almost a full month after the Providence Journal released a bombshell report on multiple cases of neglect and worse by workers in Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF), Democrat governor Gina Raimondo is finally responding after weeks of bipartisan criticism for her lack of leadership. But instead of calling for any new action to fix the DCYF, Raimondo sent out a self-congratulatory video touting her attempts to improve the agency as an apparent effort to distract from reports that DCYF workers’ actions “left young people in their care hospitalized, endangered or exploited.”
Also absent from Raimondo’s PSA was any attempt to take responsibility for the DCYF’s failures on her watch. In 2015, Raimondo appointed staffers to lead the Department, neither of whom met state-required qualifications for the DCYF director position. Raimondo has also ignored recommendations called for by Rhode Island’s Office of the Child Advocate to improve the DCYF. In March of this year, the Office of the Child Advocate stated in a report that recommendations were “yet to be executed” and that “issues with staffing and unmanageable caseloads persist and in some units, have worsened.” Raimondo made no mention of these points in her video.
Instead of acknowledging the DCYF’s inexcusable failures under her watch and pledging to take every necessary step to fix the Department’s systemic issues, Raimondo decided to put out a campaign-esque video touting herself while ignoring reality. As Rhode Island’s most vulnerable youths remain at-risk under care of state child services plagued by systemic problems, Raimondo shows no leadership, proving once again, she is all talk, no action when it comes to helping Rhode Islanders.
A report from the Office of the Child Advocate released in March of 2017 revealed that DCYF had despite recommendations made by a State Senate Task Force, “issues with staffing and unmanageable caseloads persist and in some units, have worsened.” “In January 2015, the RI Senate Task Force for DCYF released numerous recommendations regarding caseloads and inadequate staffing after hearing months of testimony. The recommendations of the Task Force were outlined and emphasized in the report completed by the March 2016 OCA Child Fatality Review Panel, however, due to ongoing issues, this report will reiterate some of the same information previously provided. Despite the comprehensive recommendations of the Senate Task Force and the placement of a “Strategy Team” at DCYF to implement the necessary changes, issues with staffing and unmanageable caseloads persist and in some units, have worsened.” (Report: “A review of four child fatalities and two near fatalities,” Page 18, State of Rhode Island Office of the Child Advocate, March 2017)
The report also revealed that several recommendations made nearly a year ago were yet to be executed “yet to be executed and remain relevant.” “The panel’s goal is to implement change to target systemic issues and ultimately improve the safety and well-being of children. It should be noted that in March 2016, the OCA completed a review of three (3) additional cases, also involving infants. This review was completed under the prior administration of the OCA. Although we commend the Department for implementing many of the recommendations made in the prior report just eleven (11) months ago, there are several vital recommendations, which have yet to be executed and remain relevant after analyzing the cases before the current Child Fatality Review Panel.” (Report: “A review of four child fatalities and two near fatalities,” Page 26, State of Rhode Island Office of the Child Advocate, March 2017)
In 2015, Raimondo appointed two two staffers to lead the DCYF, neither of whom met state requirements for the Department’s director position. “In July, Governor Raimondo announced an overhaul of the agency she pegged as dysfunctional and rife with cost overruns and accountability concerns. She tapped Jamia R. McDonald in January to lead the department’s turnaround in a newly created $138,489-a-year job as chief strategy officer in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS)… For what it’s worth: state law requires the DCYF director to hold a master’s degree in social work or “a closely related field” and have “demonstrated experience” in child welfare, children’s mental health or juvenile justice. It remains unclear who, currently in leadership at the agency, meets those qualifications.” (Jennifer Bogdan and Katherine Gregg, “Political Scene: Overhaul ramps up at R.I.’s troubled child-welfare agency,” Providence Journal, September 27, 2015)