Earlier this week, State Rep. Carole Fiola called for a transparent and thorough independent review of all state agencies involved that failed David Almond and his brother Michael.
Last week, 14-year-old David Almond, who was living with and under the care of his father and his father’s girlfriend, was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead. David was a freshman special needs student at Durfee High School. He was 5’10” and weighed only 80 pounds and wearing an adult diaper at the time of his death. The investigation has revealed evidence of neglect and admitted narcotic abuse by his caretakers including his grandmother. David was found to have fentanyl in his system. Until March 2020, David was under the care of Devereaux Advanced Behavioral Health. In March, he returned to living with his father. David and his brother were remote learning at the request of his father since March.
Fiola had several questions for officials in a letter to the State. The first concerned protocols on follow-ups once the children were removed.
“David was in a residential care facility until March and an active DCF case. What checks and evaluations are in place to ensure safe at home conditions? Reports show the home that David lived in with 5 other people and pets was a one-bedroom apartment. How was this even considered? Did he leave the residential facility with a comprehensive plan with follow up? Who was responsible for the decision?”
Fiola also questioned the policies and protocols in place to address issues of children who are not attending school in-person or are not visible during remote learning sessions.
“It is my understanding that David never presented to school in person or remotely. Who should have followed up? What is the current protocol? How many days of no presence at all before a visit is warranted? What should the protocol be? School began September 16 in Fall River. He died on October 21, more than a month after school began. We must learn what went wrong to put the right mechanisms in place. How many other children in Massachusetts have not reported to school and no eyes have been on them since September or even March!”
Finally, Fiola questioned if DCF are currently conducting visits.
“Is it true there were no social worker visits with the boys? When was the last time someone put eyes on them? We know that safety precautions have changed protocols for at home visits in many different industries but our most vulnerable and identified children deserve to be seen. What are DCF protocols during COVID-19 and how are these children being monitored?”
The Office of the Child Advocate has begun an investigation, according to Fiola.
The OCA is an independent agency that serves children and families across the Commonwealth and is separate from DCF.