State Auditor 'Surprised' At Gov. Baker's Backlash To DCF Audit

State Auditor Suzanne Bump

State Auditor Suzanne Bump talks with WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Josh Binswanger. (Jon Palmer/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- After her office released a report showing the Department of Children and Families was often unaware of serious injuries to children in its care, State Auditor Suzanne Bump said she was surprised by the backlash from Gov. Charlie Baker.

"I was, because usually the administration is receptive to suggestions that we make," she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Josh Binswanger. "Usually, the agency will accept and then act on our findings."

The audit found some 260 instances of injuries to children in DCF care that DCF didn't even know about--and that, in some cases, it also failed to report possible crimes against children to prosecutors. 

Read the DCF audit here

But Gov. Baker said the audit's findings were "simply not true"--a response which Bump says even the agency disputes.

"I was also surprised because the agency itself, in its response to the audit, admitted to these failings," she said. "So for the Governor to push back as hard as he did was surprising because he was denying a reality that already had been accepted by the agency."

After the audit came out, Gov. Baker sent a letter to DCF praising the work they've done to improve the agency; Bump called the letter a political statement.

Baker claims the data used in the audit, dating from 2014-2015, was too outdated--that it was gathered at a time when DCF deficiencies were still coming to light, and when his then-new administration was first taking steps to address them.

"Much of the information that was collected and published in the auditor's report predated the work that these people have done--social workers, clinical staff, and others--over the course of the past several years to improve the performance of that agency," Gov. Baker said last week.

He said there were significant improvements to the agency since that time, including investment in new social workers. 

Bump said those points were valid, but beside the point.

"That's not what we were auditing," she said. "We were auditing not how many social workers had been hired, not how much the budget increased. We had been auditing to find out if critical incidents were being detected and being properly reported, and we found that there were big deficiencies."

State Auditor Suzanne Bump

When asked if she saw any corrective measures being taken since her audit was completed, Bump said DCF hasn't yet indicated they will do anything with the information. She said DCF officials believe information about injuries or abuse won't come into the MassHealth system quickly enough for them to take action.

"I frankly don't understand that," she said. "Whether the information is two days old or two weeks old or two months old by the time the social worker gets it, it's information that the social worker didn't have, and it could mean that the child is in danger in the current placement and should be moved. I hope that they will reconsider their position on this and take action."

She said that there have been some improvements already. For example, the audit found that not all cases that fit DCF requirements were being referred to DA's for investigation and prosecution--but they started fixing that issue before the audit was even completed.

"You may recall that one of the other findings was that they weren't considering sexual abuse of children to be critical incidents involving the child that should be reported up to the Office of the Child Advocate," she said. "That was frankly mind-boggling, that you wouldn't consider that a critical incident ... that has been fixed. All sexual abuse cases will now go up to the Office of the Child Advocate."

She said the agency has also agreed to improve their reporting of serious bodily injury.

Bump likened the issues found in the DCF audit to ones found in recent audits of the state's Sex Offender Registry and Veteran's Affairs systems, in that some agencies are not using all of the tools they have to fulfill their mission.

"This is symptomatic of government in general, frankly, to be slow to pick up on information technologies that can help them do their job better," she said.

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