Sen. Louis P. DiPalma today issued the following statement in response to the Providence Journal’s investigation “Danger in R.I. group homes,” which highlighted instances of serious failures to protect children and young adults in state care at some of the Rhode Island facilities that house them.
Sen. DiPalma co-chaired the Senate’s Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Task Force and is Chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, Transportation and General Government. He is First Vice Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which meets periodically together with the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to conduct oversight hearings on the Department of Children, Youth & Families.
Sen. DiPalma (D – Dist. 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton), in his role as co-chair of the Senate DCYF Task Force, regularly reviewed DCYF’s progress toward implementing the Task Force’s recommendations addressing programmatic and fiscal concerns. Sen. DiPalma noted that, while quite a bit of work has been accomplished, much more remains, including the state’s overreliance on group homes. He and his colleagues continue to monitor and actively work to improve the Department’s outcomes and advocate for investments in DCYF and the Office of the Child Advocate.
DiPalma said: “Efforts to improve the programs and effectiveness of DCYF have continued to be a top priority for me personally and many of my colleagues. The work is far from complete and recent findings by the Child Advocate, Jennifer Griffith, has brought to light many troubling situations. These findings have elevated the need for immediate action by the Administration and focused efforts at DCYF.
“The children in the care of the state are counting on all of us to get this right.
“What has occurred in the very group homes that are designed to keep children safe is unconscionable. Swift action must be taken, and an immediate plan with actionable steps to ensure those who are responsible for this negligence and criminal activity are held accountable.
“Additionally, we need to ensure DCYF is working quickly to identify failures and immediately address them with a plan to accomplish the necessary changes to prevent such atrocities in the future.
“I plan to do my part to ensure we get this right and will be supporting DCYF Director Trista Piccola however, wherever and whenever needed to safeguard the children in the State’s care. I am committed to supporting the department in the development, implementation, and monitoring of the agency’s programming and response to this crisis and fully support the Child Advocate in her tireless efforts to improve the conditions and safety of children in Rhode Island. It’s going to require a lot of hard work by many, and I remain fully committed to ensuring we as a State are committing the time and resources needed to get this right.”