Budget Cuts Could Endanger Services For High-Risk Youth

By Sarah Birnbaum

Feb. 9, 2011

BOSTON — With state budget cuts looming, advocates are trying to prevent proposed cuts to the state's child welfare system.

More than 200 people rallied at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday to oppose the $8 million cut to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Gov. Patrick's spending bill. The DCF provides foster care and protective services for Bay State children.  

At a podium in front of the State House’s Grand Staircase, a series of advocates spoke about how the cuts would harm Massachusetts children and families. 19-year-old Rodney Davis of Bridgewater says the cuts would mean less help for former foster kids like her.  Davis says when she aged out of the system last year, she had no idea how to support herself.  That’s when the state stepped in.
"Because I grew up in foster homes, when I was 18 I felt like I wasn’t prepared, like I didn’t  know the real world, which I didn’t," Davis said. "So they helped me with working experience, getting an education and stuff like that."
Advocates say these services could be on the chopping block if the governor’s proposed cuts are approved.

Angelo McClain, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families  — and a Patrick appointee  — was watching the rally. He confirmed that the department has been hamstrung by recent budget cuts.
"Children's services have been cut and cut and cut.  We've revamped, we've created some efficiencies, but its to the point now that we can't really absorb any more cuts," McClain said.
McClain says the governor's budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would force the department to turn away families seeking help caring for children with emotional or physical disabilities, even though some of the children might be at risk of neglect or abuse. And he says the state wouldn't be able to place a number of children at risk of hurting themselves or their siblings in the proper treatment centers. 
Beacon Hill budget writers have declined comment on specific cuts, but they have noted that the Commonwealth is facing a $1.5 billion budget gap, and everyone is feeling the pain. The House is currently reviewing the governor’s budget proposal. Public hearings are scheduled for next week. 

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