After the Providence Journal reported on disturbing cases of neglect and worse by workers in Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF), Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has taken bipartisan criticism for weeks for failing to address the scandal-plagued Department’s glaring issues. In her response to the scandal, almost a full month after the Journal’s first report, Raimondo refused to acknowledge her decision to appoint staffers to lead the DCYF who did not meet state-required qualifications for the DCYF director position.
Raimondo was asked in an interview last week with WPRI-TV whether she had any regrets about failing to appoint a qualified DCYF director for the first two years of her term. She responded “no,” claiming it was impossible to find anyone qualified and that she first needed someone to “stabilize the ship and then search to find a full time professional:”
TED NESI: “The Journal’s doing a series by two of their most respected reporters, Jen Bogdan and Tom Mooney, who Tim and I both think highly of, on child welfare in Rhode Island and I want to ask just a specific question. In retrospect, do you regret failing to appoint a DCYF director who was qualified under state law for I believe the first two years of your term?”
GINA RAIMONDO: “No, because it was almost impossible to do that because nobody would take the job because when I took office, the system was in much more chaos than it is now. I had to put somebody in there to stabilize the ship, we had to redo all of the contracts. You have to remember when I took office it had been running a deficit year after year after year, the contracts were in terrible shape, the foster care system was worse than it is now, the level of out-of-state placements were worse than it is now. So I had to put somebody in there first to just stabilize the ship and then search to find a full time professional.”
But what Raimondo did not mention was that she waited until September 2016, a full year and eight months into her term, to even start the national search for a permanent DCYF Director position. A Director was hired in January of 2017, only four months after the search began. This begs another serious question for Raimondo: if it only took a few short months to find a qualified director, why did she wait until almost halfway into her term to even begin the process of looking for one?
Raimondo has made it clear that she has no regrets about waiting a year and eight months to even start searching for a qualified individual to lead a Department that has been rocked by reports that actions by its workers “left young people in their care hospitalized, endangered or exploited.” Maybe if Raimondo was more focused on fixing the DCYF instead of getting good press ahead of her reelection, she would have made finding a qualified director the priority that it should have been. Unfortunately, with news that Raimondo has been spending weeks planning a huge PR blitz to mark her first 1,000 days in office, it appears that her priority remains on her own image instead of Rhode Island’s at-risk youths.