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Lawmakers holding oversight hearing this week in wake of David Almond report

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By Colin A. Young/SHNS

Following the release of Child Advocate Maria Mossaides’ report detailing the systemic failures that led up to the October death of 14-year-old David Almond, state lawmakers say they plan to hold an oversight hearing on the situation as legislation to update child protection laws remains unresolved on Beacon Hill.

The Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, co-chaired by Sen. Adam Gomez and Rep. Michael Finn, will hold the oversight hearing at an unannounced future date and is “expecting answers on how this happened and what is being done to faithfully implement existing laws passed by the Legislature,” House Speaker Ronald Mariano said Wednesday.

The Office of the Child Advocate determined that DCF missed key warning signs and made a decision that “was not clinically justified” when it returned Almond and his brother to the drug-filled home that the child protection agency had removed them from about three years earlier. “At the end of the day, this is a failure of all parties to abide by the laws that are currently in place. It’s time for DCF’s leaders and others to step up, be transparent and take action to address this failure,” Mariano said.

Senate President Karen Spilka, in her own statement, said she was “heartbroken” to read the report Wednesday on Almond’s life and death, and that the Senate “is fully committed to listening to and working with stakeholders to address the numerous failures in the complex child welfare ecosystem to safeguard against this kind of tragedy in the future.”

Last summer, the House and Senate each unanimously approved similar versions of a bill to tweak child protection laws — including to update reunification reviews and require DCF to establish a formal internal review policy that creates a managerial review process prior to a decision to reunify children — but the two branches never struck an agreement on final bill language.

The House passed a newly filed version of the bill (H 88) in early March without subjecting it to a public hearing. The Senate opted to refer the bill to the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities, a decision the House formally objected to during its session Monday, leaving the bill in legislative limbo.

The hearing is set to take place May 4th at 10:0 a.m., according to State Rep Carole Fiola.

“The death of David Almond is a sickening and systemic failure by public agencies designed to prevent and watch over our most vulnerable population. This is an atrocity that requires major and necessary changes that I will continue to keep in the light.”

Fall River Reporter contributed to this report.

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