Massachusetts child welfare chief resigns after deaths

BOSTON Tue Apr 29, 2014 1:34pm EDT

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BOSTON (Reuters) - The head of Massachusetts' child welfare department stepped down on Tuesday under fire from state politicians angered by the recent deaths of three children.

Olga Roche, who had been commissioner of the Department of Children and Families since October, "can no longer garner the confidence of the public or her line staff," Governor Deval Patrick said at a press conference announcing her departure.

Her resignation follows the death this month of 4-week-old Alliana Lavigne and two other children that sparked outrage from top lawmakers, including Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.

In Lavigne's case, police had warned DCF in a fax that the child could be in danger, but no action was taken.

"Somebody in that agency read that fax and didn't deal with it," Patrick said at the press conference.

In the two other cases, a two-week old baby whose family was being monitored by child welfare officials died on Saturday, and a five-year-old, whose family was also being monitored, was found dead this month.

The cases are under investigation.

Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz said on Tuesday that "it is not possible for the agency to move forward in this environment with her at the helm."

He said Erin Deveney, who joined the agency March 31 as deputy commissioner for operations, would take over as interim commissioner, and added a full review of DCF was under way.

"This is deeper than one person, or even one agency. It takes everyone in the Commonwealth working together to keep our children safe," he said.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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