Report: Department of Children and Families Failed Bella Bond
A state watchdog issued a scathing review of how the Department of Children and Families handled the case of Bella Bond in a new report released on Wednesday.
The Office of the Child Advocate concluded the embattled agency failed to properly review Bond’s case as well as gather pertinent information about Bond’s mother, Rachelle Bond. The report found DCF did not communicate well with other state agencies that Rachelle Bond received financial, housing, and substance abuse assistance from over the course of 15 years. The report found better sharing of information between the DCF and other agencies would could “help reduce risk to children” in the future.
The review found Rachelle Bond’s long history of involuntary interaction with law enforcement and public agencies should have drawn more red flags at the agency but for whatever reason they did not.
Rachelle Bond’s trouble with the law was so intense that the review found her “arrests were too numerous to list in this report.”
OCA concluded that Rachelle Bond’s “ability to parent was not appropriately assessed” by DCF at the time of Bella’s death and that decisions to close open cases on the mother and daughter in 2012 and 2013 were premature. DCF received “mixed messages” about Rachelle Bond’s parenting ability not long after Bella was born. She was receiving ample help and appeared to be doing well given her history but her recent progress with these entities gave DCF workers a “false sense of security.” DCF revoked Rachelle Bond’s custody of her first two children.
The management protocols and internal structure of DCF also added to the dysfunctional handling of the Bond case.
“When DCF makes a determination to discontinue their work with a family, the decision must be based on a synthesis of information. Some information may conflict with other sources and a clear path may not emerge to determine current risk to a child or predict future risk of harm. During our review, it became evident this occurred with the Bond family when DCF made the decision to close the cases,” said the report.
The body of Bella Bond, 2, was found stuffed in a trash bag on deer Island in June. Rachelle and her live-in boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, are charged in her death.
In a statement, the director of the Office of the Child Advocate, Maria Mossaides, said that the report was not meant to “place blame but rather to gather and synthesize information from multiple sources.”
Mossaides reiterated this in her remarks at an afternoon press conference.
“I think it is impossible or anyone to say that continued involvement with the department would have prevented the tragedy that happened in the case,” said Mossaides.
When asked if her investigation into DCF left her with the impression the agency is underfunded, Mossaides deflected and said her review is ongoing.
“We know there is never going to be enough money to provide Cadillac services to everyone in the Commonwealth but I think we need to take a review and see where are there gaps in certain areas,” said Mossaides.