A recent audit of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, which details a failure to report multiple instances of serious mistreatment of children under the department’s supervision, has sparked conflict between Gov. Charlie Baker and the woman behind it. 

State Auditor Suzanne Bump released a report last week that found 260 cases of serious injuries that were documented by Mass Health were not documented by DCF over a two-year period. Additionally, 16 incidents deemed “critical” by the Office of the Child Advocate, which DCF was aware of, were not reported, including stabbing, rape and attempted suicide; and 19 cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and/or neglect documented by DCF were not reported to District Attorneys.

Shortly after the audit was released, Baker pointed to his administration’s recent efforts to reform the agency — including a $100 million budget increase, the hiring of 300 more case workers and nearly 100 more managers. This morning, he followed up on his response with a letter sent to all DCF staff, which reads, in part:

"I was dismayed to see the Auditor put out an audit that relied on data that was 2-3 years old and talk about it like it happened yesterday – especially when everyone knows so much has changed at DCF since the fall of 2015 …. [F]or this report to ignore nearly everything you have done for the past two and a half years to improve the agency’s ability to do its work strikes me as wrong.

“I don’t regard this audit as an indictment of the agency,” Mass. Auditor Suzanne Bump said when she joined Greater Boston to discuss her findings. “Clearly, the Secretary of Human Services and the commissioner at DCF are making heroic efforts to turn that agency around. What I am pointing out is that these are areas that they haven’t addressed. This audit looks at matters completely apart from the areas of change that they have indeed undertaken. This is not taking away from the reforms that they did, but we didn’t audit those reforms.”

Bump added that whether the information was "two days old, two weeks old or two months old," it’s information that DCF needs to have to protect children. 

"While, in fact, the administration is correct that these were incidents that occurred in 2014 and 2015, the reason that we’re concerned this problem persists is that DCF still does not make use of the MassHealth database," she said. "I understand [Gov. Baker] wants to boost the morale of his staff. I understand that those headlines aren’t good for morale, but the public shouldn’t think that that is telling a true story."