Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Senate has passed legislation aimed at ensuring stability and oversight of care for the more than 3,000 Massachusetts children involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), as well as protection of the rights of foster parents. Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the legislation.  

Following the revelation that DCF failed to act on leads that might have prevented the abuse and tragic death of 14-year-old David Almond, S.2953, An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families, creates additional safeguards and clarifies requirements for DCF-involved children and families.

To make ure that foster parents’ rights are respected in all interactions between a family and the Commonwealth, S.2954, An Act establishing a foster parents’ bill of rights, seeks to codify the fundamental rights of foster parents.

Duty toward the vulnerable

"We have a duty in the Legislature to ensure that vulnerable children in the care of the Department of Children and Families are protected, and that those responsible for these children are also held accountable and act in the children’s best interests,” Friedman, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said in a June 30 news release. Equally important to children and families are the legislative steps we took today to establish positive rights for foster parents that will strengthen our Commonwealth’s foster care program – leading to more safe, supportive foster homes for our most vulnerable children.” 

S.2953 updates and consolidates the reporting requirements of the DCF. In the event of an emergency change in a child’s placement, DCF would be required to notify the child’s attorney within a single day of the change; in a nonemergency change in placement, DCF would be required to notify the child’s attorney within five days.

The bill seeks to address problems which arose during the beginning stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, and which may have contributed to lapses in oversight during that time, by requiring DCF to regularly report on the impact of a state of emergency on DCF operations. 

Furthermore, the bill tasks DCF with establishing a standard protocol to use when making decisions about a child’s placement which could result in the removal a child from their parent or reunification of them with their family. By establishing a standard protocol, DCF would ensure that decisions are made in an effective manner to prioritize the safety and long-term well-being of the children of the Commonwealth.  

Steps to increase transparency and publicly available information are included. Under the bill, DCF would add information to their website, including quarterly data on consumer accounts, case counts, demographic information and placement counts. The bill requires DCF to identify and report on potential improvements to the process of transferring cases which involve multiple social workers or area offices, and to annually report on services provided to young adults who have aged out of the foster-care system. Furthermore, the bill would ensure that public comment is solicited on DCF’s annual report. 

In addition to the immediate safeguards put in place to protect the wellbeing of children and families, this legislation would also begin a five-year process in which DCF would partner with the legislature to establish additional safety mechanisms.

Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights  

S.2954 codifies Massachusetts foster parents’ rights to:

  • be provided with training to be a foster parent; be provided with information about the child to be placed in their home;
  • have reasonable access to a social worker and family resource worker;
  • be notified of meetings and court hearings for one’s foster child; and
  • have the opportunity to communicate with professionals who work with the child.

It also codifies the rights to:

  • be permitted to make routine decisions about the foster child’s activities;
  • be updated on relevant changes in policies, procedures and law;
  • be given the action plan for the child in their home; be informed about payment and available financial supports;
  • have the right to request removal of a child from their home;
  • be notified when a child is to be removed from their home;
  • be provided with their record, including grievances and hearing requests; and
  • not be discriminated against.

Though many of these rights are already observed in a majority of cases or are required elsewhere in Massachusetts law, by recognizing these as positive rights possessed by individual foster parents, rather than mere obligations for state agencies to uphold, the bill would ensure that these standards are followed without exception in interactions between the Commonwealth and foster parents. A copy of this bill of rights would be provided to foster parents.

June 20, 2022: State Senate passes landmark voting legislation supported by Friedman

This news announcement was published Monday, July 4, 2022.