Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Attorney Deborah Sirotkin Butler of Arlington writes:

While Bachrach [in the Boston Globe article that Atty. Rich wrote about in the previous post] laments the ouster of Harry Spence from DSS, and is so so full of praise that his column sounded like an obituary, I am glad to see change at the top of DSS.

Harry Spence for all his alleged "vision" had no training or experience in social work, child psychology or indeed any psychology, child development, or family dynamics. It showed.

Under Spence, in hundreds of cases I never saw any input from parents, therapists, or indeed, counsel into the so-called "Service Plans" that are supposedly there to assist families. What I did see is a commitment to speedy adoptions to such an extent that it looked like a deliberate desire to move children from economically struggling parents to the well-to-do.

Middle class families who already owned homes received $1400 per month or more for foster care while the homeless parent who lost their child due to homelessness received nothing.

I hope that in Angelo McClain, DSS will receive a Commissioner who understands good case work and supports that case work - rather than spending more on consultants than social workers as Commissioner Spence did.

According to testimony I heard at the House Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, Spence allocated $16 million in 2006 to outside consultants- who were no more than extra bureaucracy - and only $11 million for case work by all DSS social workers.

Under Spence, it was harder each year to get the services the children and parents I represented needed, no matter how much more money DSS received.

On behalf of the children and parents of the Commonwealth, I hope that Commissioner McClain will follow our statutes and have TEAM meetings to design Service Plans that meet the needs of families - under Commissioner Spence that never happened in all my years doing child welfare cases. Not once.


MLR said...

On June 5th, the Boston Herald published a shorter version of Atty. Butler's article. See it here: http://news.bostonherald.com/letters/view.bg?articleid=1004826&chkEm=1

Anonymous said...

I spoke with you and your response ? Oh your child can get "free college" are you really for the children ?

MLR said...

I'm not clear whether the previous comment is addressed to me or to Attorney Butler who wrote the "Glad there's a new commissioner" post to which the comment was attached. Besides, if I am right about who the commentator is, it is a person who spoke to both me and Attorney Butler.

In any event, when I am being interviewed by parents to represent them in a DSS matter, I am "for the parents". When I represent children, I am "for the children".

The "free college" comment that this parent seems to be complaining about came in response to the parent's wondering whether s/he should fight DSS's case to place a teen in foster care. The parent wasn't sure s/he wanted the teen back in the house (for a couple of reasons) and I replied that there are those reasons and several other things to consider but that s/he did not have to decide before the first court appearance on DSS's petition.

I said that if the parent chose to leave the teen with DSS, one of the advantages for the child would be that if the child chose to remain with DSS when s/he turns 18, s/he will be entitled to a free college education. I mentioned that I have advised children attaining majority that taking advantage of the free college education that DSS offers is one way of getting something back from the years of hassle and heartache that being involved with DSS can cause for children.

So, YES; advising children and parents that being in DSS care when they are college aged can be an advantage and is very much "for the children".