State Auditor Suzanne Bump at a press conference on the DCF audit. (Lana Jones/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)
BOSTON (WBZ-AM/AP) -- A state audit found that Massachusetts' child welfare agency was often unaware of serious injuries suffered by children in its care.
In some cases, the audit released Thursday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump's office found the Department of Children and Families also failed to report possible crimes against children to prosecutors.
"There were, in the data that we looked at for 2014 and 2015, 260 medical incidents of serious bodily harm that were sustained by children already under DCF care that DCF didn't know about--if they don't know about them, then they can't act upon them," Bump said Thursday. "And when I say that these were serious bodily injuries, they included gunshots, and burns, and stabbings, and injuries because of assault."
Bump said that the DCF should consider sexual abuse a critical incident that should trigger an immediate investigation.
The DCF responded to Bump's findings, agreeing the incidents should be recorded in the case files of the children and insisting they take reports of sexual assault very seriously--including by collaborating with the DA and the Office of the Child Advocate.
The agency says it has made a number of improvements since the audit period of 2014 and 2015, but Bump calls those reforms a "work in progress."
"What's concerning about this is that DCF could have known about this, even if it wasn't reported to them by the medical providers, because they could have located the information just as we did in the MassHealth database to which they have access," she said.
Bump said their response shows they haven't recognized the importance of complete reporting.
"I can't frankly understand how it is that they can justify their willing ignorance of this information by saying it might not be very current information," she continued. "Whether the information that's contained in those medical reports is two hours old or two days old or two weeks old, that is information that DCF has to obtain in order to ensure that they are properly caring for the children in their custody."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports