Trouble is brewing at the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, & Families (DCYF)

Here's everything you need to know about what's happening at the Rhode Island DCYF.

What is the Department of Children, Youth, & Families?

According to its website, DCYF exists to “Partner with families and communities to raise safe and healthy children and youth in a caring environment.” One of its guiding principles is the idea that “the family, community and government share responsibility for the safety, protection and well-being of children…”

Why is it in trouble?

An explosive report from the Providence Journal on August 12, 2017 blew open the door on allegations of assault, sex-trafficking, other dangerous conditions that left one resident paralyzed, and subsequent cover-up on the part of DCYF employees.

  • In one of the Pawtucket homes, a worker allegedly used the agency van to help run a sex trafficking ring

  • On July 28, one resident allegedly fell during an outing, suffered paralysis, and needed spinal surgery

  • An employee’s girlfriend allegedly assaulted two residents at a Newport group home for girl

A later Providence Journal editorial, dated August 19, called the scandal an “unconscionable failure of the state to protect young people it has placed under its care.”

Again: DCYF exists to be a safe haven for youth escaping troubled home environments. There are 41 state-regulated group homes in Rhode Island that house 194 children up to age 21. DCYF officials would not comment on any of the alleged incidents.

Reactions

Rhode Island child advocate Jennifer Griffith was quoted in the Providence Journal report calling the DCYF homes in question “substandard group homes riddled with drug use, improper supervision, criminal activity, inferior housing conditions….” and lacking “appropriate support and mental-health treatment.”

State Rep. Patricia Serpa called out the “leadership vacuum in this state the likes of which I have never seen,” that led to the crisis at DCYF.

State Sen. Louis P. DiPalma issued a statement calling the allegations “unconscionable,” and that “swift action must be taken.” He added that those responsible for the “negligence and criminal activity” should be held accountable.

Ramifications for Gov. Raimondo   

Since the August 12 report, Gov. Raimondo has not publicly addressed the crisis at DCYF, or taken any public actions to clean up the department.

As the Providence Journal noted in its editorial, the DCYF’s troubles are not new. In 2015, Gov. Raimondo called DCYF an “agency in crisis.” In July of that year, the governor even took to Twitter to promise that her administration would “turn around” and “strengthen” the DCYF. That was after a 2014 report, authored by the Governor’s Resource Team (under then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee), called the DCYF “fractured” and “inconsistent.”

If and when the Raimondo Administration takes steps to “turn around” the DCYF, we’ll let you know.

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