RI lawmakers, social workers call for top-to-bottom review of DCYF

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island lawmakers and social workers are demanding a comprehensive audit of the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

The call comes after the House Finance Committee agreed to provide DCYF with an additional $11 million in funding through the proposed state budget.

Rep. Anastasia Williams, a member of the committee, said the state agency has failed the state’s most vulnerable children time and time again.

“The reality of it is, this place is a mess and it needs to be fixed once and for all,” she said.

Matthew Gunnip, president of Service Employees International Union Local 580, said the additional boost will help DCYF fully fund staffing, but agreed a complete performance review needs to be completed before that money is allocated to the agency.

“A responsible DCYF budget isn’t just about funding more frontline workers,” Gunnip said. “It’s also that a top-down review of agency that will root out the past practices that have put political patronage ahead of the welfare of our state’s most vulnerable children and families.”

DCYF has been under fire since 2016, when the House Oversight Committee began investigating the deaths of several children in state care. Over time, the committee also discovered social workers were juggling extremely high caseloads.

Rep. Julie Casmiro urged DCYF Acting Director Kevin Aucoin to “make bold changes” to the agency for the sake of the state’s most youngest and most vulnerable population.

“After years of hearing horror stories in our oversight hearings, more of the same is not going to be tolerated,” Rep. Julie Casmiro said. “We need systematic change.”

12 News reached out to DCYF about the potential for an audit but has yet to hear back.

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