Rep. Robertson & House Passes Legislation Protecting Foster Children, Fighting Mosquito-Borne Illness

Below is a press release from State Rep. Dave Robertson’s Office:

BOSTON, MA — Addressing both pre and post-oubreak issues within the Department of Children and Families, Representative Robertson and his colleagues passed H4841 unanimously, establishing new DCF guidelines, reporting requirements, and establishing a Foster Parent’s Bill of Rights. Aiming at ensuring child-abuse cases are tracked and reported practices made complicated by the COVID-19 outbreak, the legislation seeks to address a 51% drop in child abuse reports seen since the implementation of the state of emergency and ensure that abusive adults are not using the pandemic to hide their crimes.

“Foster parents are really unsung heroes who save the lives of these young kids in terrible situations” said Representative Robertson, “They love these children as family, sacrifice time and finances selflessly, and fix a wrong in the world without seeking praise. I know my colleagues and I looked forward to supporting this bill, and those families who prove love is what truly makes a family bond.”

The legislation, now in the hands of the Senate, offered five major changes to the current foster system. In conjunction with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a major referring agency as teachers and staff are trained in abuse prevention, the Department of Children and Families will begin to report monthly changes in reported cases, participation rates of children in remote learning who are subjects in open investigations, and public information campaigns on what signs of abuse to look for in children. The bill also streamlines reporting requirements for DCF’s annual and quarterly reports on open cases, initiatives, and hearings as well as requires the Office of the Child Advocate to report any failures of the state to protect a child in care.

The crowning jewel of the legislation, however, was the long advocated Foster Parent’s Bill of Rights. Included in the proposal was the inclusion of pre-placement training, greater access to information about financial support and integration services, review of DCF’s plans to place the child in the home before placement occurs, and a staffed 24-hour hotline in the case of an emergency.

In addition to the legislation above, the House of Representatives also passed unanimously legislation to combat EEE and other mosquito-borne disease. Massachusetts, in conjunction with local and county mosquito-control boards, will now notify of control activities and permits municipalities to implement their own DPH-approved plans in lieu of state plans if they wish to do so.

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