Children Versus Bridges

Jeremiah Oliver is a 5-year old boy from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who hasn't been seen since September of last year. The boy was supposed to be under the supervision of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, but, it has since been learned, DCF social workers not only were negligent in their oversight of Jeremiah, they also misrepresented their work to keep that fact hidden. Little Jeremiah is now feared dead.

Still, Governor Deval Patrick had the temerity to say yesterday that the problems at the DCF are "not systemic." Is that a fact, Governor? Why is it, then, that your own independent investigation into the DCF found that nearly 20 percent of required home visits to check on children like Jeremiah were not made by your DCF's social workers? How is it that more than one-third of the social workers employed by the DCF are not licensed to practice in their field? And what of the evidence unearthed by the Office of the Child Advocate showing that 249 allegations of physical and sexual abuse and poor care involving youngsters in state-watched settings were made last year?

While a normal person recoils in horror upon hearing about the consequences of the incompetence at his DCF, Governor Patrick sees them as "a great opportunity... to rethink and reinvigorate the department." So, the cruelties that Jeremiah and hundreds of other children suffered are tolerable because they present an opportunity to for the Governor to fix the DCF? No, the problem is that the Patrick administration has been at the helm for more than six years now. He was supposed to make sure the DCF was doing their job before these things happened. Jeremiah Oliver is a person, he's not an "opportunity" for a bureaucrat to do what he should have done years ago.

Nevertheless, the governor presses on, determined to distance himself from the problem. "It's troubling to me too, but the question is, is it troubling to people who actually know what is engaged, what is involved in being a social worker in a child's welfare agency?" he told the media yesterday, as if he was a randomly-chosen pedestrian doing a man-on-the-street interview. Perhaps his penchant for being out of his office, nestled in his mansion in the Berkshires or traveling the world, is what gives the Governor the sense of detachment from the waste, fraud, and abuse for which he is responsible at the DCF.

Is there a person outside of Massachusetts who is aware of this scandal? Of course not, because all of the attention is focused on a Republican governor from another state who may or may not have had a hand in creating a traffic jam. But Deval Patrick is a Democrat with presidential aspirations and a close friend of President Obama. So, where's the national media on this one? As the legendary Boston talk show host Howie Carr likes to say, "there's nothing to see here, folks. Move along."