Patrick Announces Plan To Streamline Children's Services

By Sarah Birnbaum

Mar. 2, 2011

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick wants to reorganize the state agencies that provide social and health services to children. Administration officials briefed service providers and advocates on the outlines of the plan on Tuesday.  

Under Patrick’s plan, the Department of Children and Families, which oversees foster care, and the Department of Youth Services, which handles children in the court system, would be merged into a single agency. Government officials say the overhaul would make it easier for families to navigate the complex and decentralized child welfare system. 

But advocates have reservations.
Barbara Talkov of the Children’s League, says the real problem isn’t that families don’t know where to look for services. It’s that there are no services to be had.

“Sometimes families will say, well I know where to go and I’ll go someplace. For instance, I’ll go look for mental health services for my kid, but there’s a waitlist," Talkov said.

"Or it used to be that families who are in crisis could often go to the Department of Children and families for help voluntarily, but what’s been happening over the past 3 years since the economic crisis is that they’ve had to limit services because there’s not enough money,” Talkov said.

And other advocates say that a structural reorganization would take too much time away from already overtaxed agencies. 

Patrick administration officials say they are still finalizing the plan, and thet they will meet with advocates and lawmakers in the coming months, before submitting a proposal to the legislature.

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