LEGISLATIVE UPDATES - JUNE 2021
A message from MA State Senator Diana DiZoglio
In late March, we were all devastated to learn of the tragedy involving David Almond, the 14-year-old autistic boy who died last October after being found living in abhorrent conditions. Fall River police went to the Almond house after receiving a report of an unresponsive person. There, officers found David, bruised, emaciated and living in squalor under the care of his father, who, alongside his girlfriend, were arrested and indicted on charges of second-degree murder. The loss of David’s life was completely preventable and the result of a series of systemic breakdowns over a long period of time. These missteps were highlighted in a recent report by the Office of the Child Advocate that shined a spotlight on the state Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) failed response to a series of red flags.DCF had long been involved with the Almond household, removing David and his brothers from their father’s care in 2017. Yet, they would return to Fall River last year, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. DCF’s supervision over the reunification was negligible, as they conducted only virtual visitation and did not bother to follow up when David and his brothers did not return to school. DCF also failed to investigate injuries David suffered, involving a wound to his face. DCF completely failed this child and a beautiful, young life was lost as the result. There is no shortage of reforms to be implemented.For one, the current workforce training curriculum to assess safety and risks to a family is clearly not working and must be overhauled. DCF workers need access to better training in helping children with disabilities who, all too often, are more likely to be maltreated than those without disabilities. Several bills have been filed this session around reform at DCF.House Bill 88, An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families, establishes a “bill of rights” to help recruit and retain foster parents, updates reunification reviews and requires DCF to establish a formal review policy that creates a managerial review process prior to a decision to reunify children. The bill also requires DCF to notify a child or young adult’s attorney of changes in placement or if the child or young adult is involved in a 51A abuse or neglect report.Senate Docket 2581, An Act to protect children, would require DCF to conduct a comprehensive review of the department’s practices related to individuals with disabilities and develop a policy to promote positive changes; develop a new reunification policy by setting minimum standards that must be met; and review current processes for safety assessment and then develop an evidenced-based process for assessing safety issues, with minimum set standards.Our youngest and most vulnerable need our help and we need to take bold action. These are just some of the reforms that must be implemented at DCF and I will continue to push for their passage.If you have questions about this or any other issue, please contact me and my team anytime via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 978-984-7747.Yours in service,DianaA message from Representative James M. Kelcourse:Summer is officially here! As COVID-19 related restrictions on daily activities begin to lift, I encourage everyone to find ways to enjoy spending time outdoors, and stay safe from the warm weather we’ve been having! I hope you have all found ways to stay cool, whether it’s a spending day on beautiful Salisbury Beach, or relaxing at home with family and friends.I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations to Chuck Takesian Jr. and Donna Abdulla for their re-election as Salisbury Selectmen! We are all looking forward to working together again toward a great future for Salisbury.As many of you know, dune erosion and storm surges have been impacting Salisbury Beach for quite some time. I am pleased to announce that significant progress has been made on the issue. The Baker-Polito Administration has committed to the purchase of sand to be placed on the beach, which will protect the storm battered dunes and prepare for the beach season ahead. This achievement is made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the legislative delegation- Senator DiZoglio, Senator Tarr, Representative Mirra, and myself- along with Town Manager, Neil Harrington, Conservation Agent, Adriane Marchand, and the passionate members and citizens of the Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Resiliency Task Force. This project will bring the community one step closer to maintaining our beloved shoreline, and we hope to have it completed by the end of the month.As the 192nd Session of the Massachusetts General Court progresses, bills have begun to be assigned to committees for hearings. I sit on the Joint Committee on Education, Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and House Committee on Human Resources and Employee Engagement. If there is a bill that you are passionate about, and would like to see me support, please feel free to reach out to my office about it and I would be more than happy to read further into it. This is the best way that I can advocate for you, the great citizens and business owners of Salisbury, Newburyport, and Amesbury!Should you have any questions or need assistance, please contact my office at email@example.com or (978) 465-1777.
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