Cover story: Cause and effect at DCF – the road to tragedy

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On March 31 the state Office of the Child Advocate, which oversees the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, unleashed a scathing report resulting from an anonymous survey of state social workers and their managers.


The results were an indictment of the agency and its stewardship, particularly that of the recently departed Gov. Deval Patrick administration.

There were numerous complaints of understaffing. The report stated that a growing number of social workers were taking on more than 20 cases despite the state’s contract with their union calling for a 15:1 caseworker-to-family ratio, which is in line with federal standards.

“This environment is dangerous and is a tragedy waiting to happen. Please help us get to a place where we can safely manage our cases before another child dies and we are blamed!” — survey respondent

Locally, the situation was at its worst. Workers in the western region, which covers all four DCF offices in Central Massachusetts, including two in Worcester, reported a lower morale than any of their colleagues and nearly the lowest job satisfaction. The Worcester East office had more workers with 20+ caseloads (63) than all but 5 of the 29 area DCF outposts at a time when caseloads were jumping to 20 or more for about one-third of all DCF social workers.

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