The State’s Child Advocate, Jennifer Griffith, has announced that she has appointed a panel of eight community professionals to conduct a multidisciplinary review of the death of a seven month old infant. This child was not in state custody at the time of the fatality, but was previously involved in a case that was open to the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).
The RI Senate Task Force charged with investigating the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the two networks that provide services to DCYF families, has recommended that DCYF “monitor the networks more closely and be more involved with the families it serves” according to the Providence Journal. The task force offered 20 recommendations to improve DCYF.
At a Senate meeting to discuss Rhode Island’s budget deficits, DCYF Director Janice DeFrances proposed changes that would save nearly $1.6 million, against a projected deficit of $13.8 million for the Department. However, Ms. DeFrances stated to the Senate that costs for out-of-state placements, a delay in plans to establish an in-state group home for adolescent girls, and the loss of $3 million in federal dollars have all contributed to the current deficit.
The Office is empowered to initiate litigation on behalf of children in state care, including litigation naming other state agencies as defendants. The Office has brought suit against DCYF and placement facilities for violating the Children’s Bill of Rights on issues including privacy and humane treatment of children in state care.
Reviewing Child Fatalities
The Office may convene a formal investigative commission for any child fatality in which the child victim hasany connection with DCYF and issue a public report with recommendations for systemic reforms.
Monitoring Placement Facilities
The Office monitors public and private residential placement facilities and shelters and conducts periodic on site visits to confirm whether a facility is in compliance with R.I. child care regulations, which may include health, safety and fire codes. The Office also assesses the quality of programs, interviews children, verifies any report of institutional abuse, and recommends corrective actions to be taken.
The Child Advocate is a member of the RI General Assembly’s Children’s Code Commission which reviews all legislation affecting children and routinely offers testimony in General Assembly hearings on legislative proposals affecting children.
Public Hearings and Reports
The Office makes presentations at conferences, convenes public hearings and conducts studies which are released as public reports.
Child Victims Assistance
The Office provides assistance to children in DCYF care who may be entitled to crime victim compensation by making them aware of crime victim compensation laws and pursuing legal actions on behalf of certain child victims of sexual and/or severe physical abuse.
The Office conducts training and offers seminars for providers and guardians ad litem.