Governor Baker Promises Speedy Change at DCF in Aftermath of Baby Bella’s Death

The child's death only adds to the troubled agency's already-damaged reputation.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

The name Bella Bond has joined the growing list of children who have suffered neglect, abuse, and even death while being at one point under the watchful eye of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

Bella Bond, known until recently as Baby Doe, was twice the subject the of DCF investigations in 2012 and 2013. Last week, the two-year-old was identified as the child of Rachelle Bond, a woman with a long criminal history and a pattern of losing custody of her children.

Between 2001 and 2006, Bond lost the custody of her two other children after DCF determined that she was unfit to raise them.

Somehow, Bella still managed to fall through the agency’s cracks.

Governor Charlie Baker vowed on Sunday to quickly implement long talked about reforms at the troubled agency.

“We’re going to have DCF take a good look at the case, of course. This just speaks to, frankly, some of the recommendations we made recently which involve the fact that the in-take process at DCF hasn’t been updated in 12 years. That’s a No. 1 priority for us,” Baker said, who added that the “basic playbook for child welfare” needs updating.

“We’ve got to get on with it because that’s the document that, on the ground, everybody uses when they make these decisions. And it can’t happen fast enough. We’re going to move very aggressively working with the department to pursue this, and frankly, working with the unions and others,” Baker said.

Since entering office, Baker, a known turnaround artist and reformer in the private sector, has attempted to tackle deeply rooted problems at a handful of high profile agencies in state government, like the MBTA and DCF.

The effort to reform DCF accelerated after the 2013 disappearance and death of Jeremiah Oliver, a four-year-old from Fitchburg. Oliver’s body was found on the side of a highway. Oliver, like Bond, was on the radar of DCF workers, but somehow his case slipped through the cracks. Reports on the Oliver case later disagreed on the role DCF played in his disappearance and death.

The problems at DCF were a hot topic of contention during the 2014 election. A nasty attack ad accused Baker’s then opponent, former Attorney General Martha Coakley, of not doing enough to fix the agency.