October 28, 2015 / 7:45 PM / 4 years ago

Massachusetts report faults agency's handling of 'Baby Doe' case

A combination photo shows Michael Patrick McCarthy (R) and Rachelle Bond, 40, mother of the 2-1/2-year-old girl Bella Bond, in this Suffolk County District Attorney's Office photo released on September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Suffolk County District Attorney's Office/Handout

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts agency charged with guarding children’s well-being fell short in its handling of a toddler whose body was found washed up on a Boston Harbor beach earlier this year, a state review of the case found on Wednesday.

The remains of 2-1/2-year-old Bella Bond were found in a garbage bag in June by a woman who had been out walking her dog. Authorities initially called the girl only “Baby Doe” and mounted a billboard campaign seeking the public’s help in identifying the girl.

Bond’s first contact with the state’s Department of Children and Families came early in life, when she and her mother, Rachelle Bond, lived in shelters for periods of 2012 and 2013. The mother, who had a history of drug-related charges, had earlier lost custody of two older children.

“Her past history of arrests, substance abuse, mental health issues, instability and the termination of parental rights for two other children should have triggered higher-level conferences at DCF and closer attention,” the state’s Office of the Child Advocate wrote in a report ordered by Governor Charlie Baker.

Rachelle Bond, and her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, were arrested last month. McCarthy was charged with the murder of the child, and Bond was charged as an accessory after the fact. Each has pleaded not guilty.

The report’s recommendations included calls for the DCF to put in place more stringent monitoring of parents who previously lost custody of their children and to improve its electronic record-keeping system.

Bella Bond’s death was the third high-profile incident involving children who had contact with the department in about a year, following the August death of a child at a state-licensed foster home and a case last year in which a woman was found living with the bodies of three dead infants. The DCF had also looked into that case.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney

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