Department of Children and Families Accountability Bill Requires Additional Work to Meet Its Goal
July 10, 2020
Amanda Johnston, GLAD | 617-417-7769 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement of Citizens for Juvenile Justice and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders on H. 4841
Yesterday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to pass H. 4841 (formerly H. 4163). We appreciate the work of Vice Chair Garlick, Chair Khan and others on this legislation. While we are encouraged to see the legislature take interest in creating greater oversight and transparency in the Department of Children and Families, this bill, dubbed “An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families,” requires more work to actually meet that goal.
For too long our state systems have been allowed to monitor themselves. The time for that has stopped, and it must include the child welfare system. To truly be accountable to the vulnerable youth and families in its care, the Department of Children and Families is in need of transformative change. It is incumbent on those in power to work to center the needs of children and to address the systemic racism and discrimination that is embedded in the child welfare system.
What is needed is intersectional data on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability at every decision point and well-being measure in the system, so that we can understand and address the needs of our most vulnerable youth and families. Comprehensive data collection should avoid any piecemeal approach that fails to capture racial and ethnic disparities, relegates LGBTQ youth to second-class status, and erases people with disabilities.
The bill as passed yesterday lacks essential community input and accountability measures. As our society takes a critical look at systemic racism and bias, data is crucial in revealing the realities of the disproportionate impact of a child welfare system that, from its inception, has judged Black and Brown parenting with far harsher interventions at every step of the decision-making process.
There should be representation of impacted communities on the DCF data task force – particularly Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities who are disproportionately impacted by this system – but there currently is none. There should be a statutory bill of rights for children in foster care, but instead there is only a bill of rights for foster parents.
These are just some examples of the work that still lies ahead, much of which this bill puts back onto the DCF data task force. It is for this reason that the bill must be amended to ensure that the work of the task force is open and transparent and that it does not proceed without membership that is truly representative of the communities impacted.
We urge the House and Senate to demand that DCF work with impacted communities to promote justice and transparency in this system.
Citizens for Juvenile Justice is the only independent, non-profit, statewide organization working exclusively to improve the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts. We advocate, convene, conduct research, and educate the public on important juvenile and youth justice issues. www.cfjj.org/
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. www.glad.org