Lawmakers dismiss PR, call for Roche's ouster [Boston Herald :: ]
(Boston Herald (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 16--Lawmakers calling for the ouster of embattled child welfare boss Olga Roche told the Herald they aren't swayed by the public relations blitz aimed at saving her job, including testimonials from agencies receiving state money from the Department of Children and Families.
"This is a failure of leadership," said state Rep. Stephen DiNatale (D-Fitchburg). "The governor needs to step up and we need a new face in that position. It's a difficult job, but I think it's time for the person at the top -- in this case Ms. Roche -- to move on and have us go in a different direction."
Since Thursday, 24 Republican and 10 Democratic lawmakers have signed a letter calling for Gov. Deval Patrick to fire Roche, citing the agency's approvals for convicts to live in foster homes, monthly home visits missed for 20 percent of youths under state watch, visitation rights for parents found to have sexually abused their children and the agency's admission that one-third of social workers are unlicensed.
Roche has been under fire since December when the agency admitted Fitchburg 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver -- who is now feared dead -- was missing for months before social workers noticed.
DCF responded Friday by sending out a press release with more than a dozen testimonials from social services groups. Nearly all of the testimonials came from people who work for DCF contractors or organizations that receive money from DCF.
An agency spokesman sent out another email blast yesterday with a breakout of testimonials from central Massachusetts supporters -- praise from some of the same people contained in Friday's press release.
State Rep. George Peterson (R-Grafton) said DCF needs a fresh start without Roche at the helm.
"Although she's only been a commissioner for a short period of time, she's come up in this system which has a number of flaws," said Peterson. "I thought she would have started to move in a lot quicker fashion and she has not done that. You can't manage from crisis to crisis. It's a shame because I think as a social worker, she was probably very good, but as a manager I think she needs to move on."
State Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer) said he agrees with the press release praise of Roche as a longtime compassionate social worker.
"With all that said, being a front-line worker, being a social worker, doesn't necessarily make you a good manager," said Durant. "I'm deeply concerned when I hear comments like, 'Well even if we change leadership we won't see a change.' These are children we're speaking of and we're just supposed to throw our hands up in the air and accept this as the norm? I don't think so."
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