Posted by: Shaun | March 20, 2008

Globe: “DSS ignored ‘red flag’ of abuse”

As I picked up a copy of The Boston Globe this afternoon, I was is in for a horrific surprise when I came across this on page one:

The state Department of Social Services allowed a 7-year-old boy to stay in a home where his mother’s boyfriend, a former convict who had served time for crack cocaine possession and assaulting a police officer, beat the boy with a belt, burned his genitals with lit cigarettes, and urinated on his head, police said yesterday.

DSS officials had known of neglect in the home as far back as 2002 and were informed of three reports of possible physical abuse since late last year, including reports of a beating with a belt in December and burns with a cigarette on March 4. But DSS did not notify law enforcement officials until Monday, when teachers discovered burn marks on his genitals, pelvis, and buttocks.

“This kid was sent home to be tortured for another 13 days, as far as I’m concerned, because somebody dropped the ball,” Middleborough Police Chief Gary J. Russell said in an interview yesterday. “It makes you want to cry. This kid was tortured.”

It is a tragic reality that child abuse like this is far more common than any of us would like to believe, and the child welfare agencies charged with protecting kids are ill equipped to achieve their purpose. All too often, they are underfunded and understaffed, placing an enormous amount of pressure on the social workers and psychologists who deal with at-risk youth. One need only think back to the scandal that erupted back in 2002 when Florida’s Department of Children and Families was found to have “lost” hundreds of children in order to realize what’s at stake.

If you know someone that works in the child welfare system as a social worker, psychiatric worker, or just in administration, thank them for what they do. There simply aren’t enough good people in the field right now and that won’t change until citizens start demanding that states give foster care and child welfare organizations the resources they need to do their job.

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