The Massachusetts child welfare agency is taking some heavy criticism after confirming their decision to allow prospective foster parents with criminal records to take at-risk youths into their homes. Prospective foster parents with rap sheets that have criminal convictions for a wide range of offenses will be allowed to take at-risk foster kids into their homes. The standing policy at the Massachusetts child welfare agency could allow people with convictions for armed assault, drug dealing, manslaughter, and soliciting sex to take at-risk children into their homes. Naturally, this policy has had some serious criticism leveled against it.
The odd rules, buried inside the Department of Children and Families’ handbook on criminal record checks and updated just half a dozen years ago, lets foster parents with criminal pasts take charge of endangered children in the state’s child welfare agency.
Some of the crimes that the Department of Children and Families could forgive would-be foster parents after looking at their applications include the following:
• Offenses like soliciting sex from a minor, soliciting sex from a prostitute, and possessing “obscene” pornography;
• Violent offenses, like assault & battery, involuntary manslaughter, and armed burglary;
• Motor vehicle homicide while intoxicated; and
• A variety of drug offenses, including heroin and cocaine trafficking within 1,000 feet of a school.
Some of these offenses are clearly serious, especially in the context of child foster care. For example, the offense of soliciting sex from a minor, and the offense of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school – directly harm children.
There is a so-called “discretionary” list put out by the agency that has approximately 110 crimes that applicants can have on their records and still become foster parents. It is much longer than the list of crimes that would directly disqualify people from becoming foster parents, including aggravated rape, indecent assault & battery on a child, and murder.
Department of Children and Families officials say that they have given “very few approvals” of foster parent applicants who have criminal convictions listed on the “discretionary” list, but the officials didn’t give a concrete number on how many applicants actually received approval since 2012.
A victims’ advocate and attorney, Wendy Murphy, blamed the governor for letting DC approve foster parent applicants who have criminal records.
She said that the governor had approved extremely poor quality control standards and that children were being put into danger by the policy guidelines. She said that there would be stricter standards if the office of the governor was truly doing its best. She said that it was a leadership issue, and that there is no constitutional right that guarantees someone the right to be a foster parent.
A spokesman said the agency needed more time to find out how many convicted criminals had been approved as foster parents because officials were trying to deal with the large number of public records requests from the media.