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Children's Rights Calls Mass. Child Welfare System Fifth Worst-Run Nationally

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In a scathing 171-page report, filed in a federal class-action lawsuit against Mass. Gov. Duval Patrick, the New York-based Children's Rights terms the Mass. child welfare system the fifth worst-managed in the country, and says that the mismanagement has resulted in the neglect and abuse of one-in-five kids in state custody. Massachusetts currently ranks eighth worst nationally for child abuse and neglect, according to Children's Rights.

Citing reports by child welfare specialists obtained through discovery in the Connor v. Patrick federal suit, Children's Rights says the state's Department of Children and Families is plagued by dysfunction, low staffing, and lax oversight.

"Far too many children in Massachusetts remain at risk of maltreatment even after they enter the protection of the state's child welfare system," said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children's Rights. "These new reports further underscore the critical need to overhaul DCF as it fails to meet its moral and legal duty to keep kids in foster care safe from further harm."

The union leadership of the 3,500 workers in the Department of Children and Families say the state doesn't have much of a chance in its lawsuit.

"I'll be honest, I think it will be hard for the state to win," Peter MacKinnon, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 509's DCF chapter, told the Boston Herald about the suit that's set to go to trial in January.

Listen to: Foster Care Class-Action Lawsuit with Angelo McClain, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, and Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director, Children's Rights, on WBUR-FM.