BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) – The Department of Children and Families has a policy that reportedly allows for people with a criminal record to become a foster parent. FOX 25 Political Reporter Sharman Sacchetti asked Governor Deval Patrick about DCF's policies on foster parents.
Patrick said that someone's eligibility for being a foster parent is a judgment call, and that a criminal record should not automatically disqualify someone from becoming a foster parent.
"You can have a record," he said. "It might be stealing a candy bar when you're 14 or 15 years old. That's a record."
Patrick appeared to downplay questions about DCF's policy that reportedly does allow for people to become foster parents, even though they may have criminal convictions like soliciting sex from a minor, drug trafficking or even armed assault.
Patrick showed no interest in looking to change that policy, which was first reported by the Boston Herald.
"If somebody has had 20 years of leading an exemplary life the fact that they have in the past had a conviction should be a factor but not an automatic disqualifier and that's the only point," he said.
DCF told FOX 25 that it looks at the full picture, and adds a Superior Court decision in 2000 bars the agency from disqualifying an individual from employment solely based upon a prior conviction.
The agency says it weighs a variety of factors, and that there have been very few approvals in the serious categories. The list was last updated in 2008.
Just weeks ago the House Post Audit and Oversight Chair David Linsky grilled DCF Commissioner Olga Roche at a hearing investigating how it was possible that DCF lost track of a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy, whom authorities fear may be dead.
Linsky says there is a simple way to make sure people with criminal records are not foster parents.
"DCF just has to say no! You can't be a foster parent if you're a child abuser, if you have sexual assault convictions, if you have substance abuse problems, if you are a drug dealer, if you have OUI's, you can't be a foster parent, period," he said.
Patrick stuck by the agency, pointing out it's a judgment call they make.
"Judgments have to be made and they are made at the senior most level with the best interests of the child paramount," Patrick said.
"Well, we've seen them use their discretion and now a little boy is missing," Representative Shaunna O'Connell said.
She also said the DCF commissioner should be fired, because she says there's no faith in her ability to run the agency any longer.