From Jane Lyons, Executive Director

We’ve never been ones to sit on our hands at Friends of Children.

When we see an issue that adversely impacts a child or young adult, we jump in to find a solution. When a family is overwhelmed, and struggles to provide for their children, we dig for resources to enable sustainable well-being for children and the entire family. When solutions are not readily available, we challenge ourselves to explore new ways of thinking to better serve vulnerable children and young people.

After many years, patterns of problems have emerged. And because we adhere to the mindset of speaking truth to power, we created the Children’s Union - our policy arm. Most of our work during the past several years has been focused on independent oversight for children in placements provided by DCF. Prior to COVID-19, we were in the midst of discussions of new areas to address, including access to outpatient and acute mental health services for children and adolescents. 

Yet the crisis imposed by the pandemic requires that we hold onto our belief in truth/action/change advocacy as we navigate the crisis responses in our child welfare system.

You’ll read more in this newsletter issue that is focused on the work of the Children’s Union. I want you to know how essential our voice and the voice of children is at tables where sweeping decisions are made. To do this kind of work takes resourcefulness, steadfast resolve, flexibility, and funding. Friends of Children’s mission is to foster the dignity of children and young people in the child welfare system by persistently advocating for support and services that promote their long-term well-being.

If after reading this you too want to support the Children’s Union’s work to champion the needs of vulnerable kids and families, you can do so HERE .

Thank you! And feel free to reach out to us at any time with a question, comment or idea!



Message From June Ameen, Policy Director

We have all made significant changes in our personal and professional lives to protect ourselves and our families from the threat of this coronavirus pandemic.  Friends of Children has also adjusted our policy and advocacy work to identify and support efforts focused on child welfare issues that are caused by, or amplified by this health crisis. We are very concerned about the impact of this health and economic crisis on some of the most vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth.

As you may know, The Children’s Union, our policy advocacy arm, has been focused on promoting an independent foster care review office to provide oversight over the permanency plans of children and youth in foster care. Learn more HERE. We will continue to champion the Foster Care Review Office bill and the need for independent oversight. Additionally, the Legislature, the Baker Administration and other advocates are currently and sensibly focusing their attention on the COVID-19 impact and response.

The Children’s Union’s efforts have also pivoted to understanding how the pandemic is impacting children, youth and families who are involved with MA Department of Children and Families (DCF). We are particularly focused on how DCF is responding to meet those needs. Through our CASA, FOCUS and Foster Dignity programs, we are able to understand the direct impact of policy decisions on children and families impacted by foster system involvement. 

During the Covid-19 crisis, we are directing significant energy to policy advocacy not only for children and young adults in foster care, but also for families with children living at home who were being monitored by DCF prior to the crisis. These families relied on DCF for services to assist them to care for their children. We are painfully aware of the basic needs of the children, young adults, and families that we serve.  

We worry about young people 18+ who are, or have been, in foster care. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, we knew that MA has the highest rate in the country of young people who leave foster care without a permanent family. They are at risk of homelessness and other negative outcomes.

We are also concerned about children and youth in group residential settings and those moving from placement to placement and the risk of COVID-19 exposure. MA has one of the highest rates in the nation of foster care placement instability according to federal statistics.

We wonder about visits between children in foster care and their parents and siblings – meaningful interaction is critical to minimize the trauma these children have already endured.
This is surely a lot. What are we doing about it?

  • In early April, we penned a letter to the Legislature requesting action to ensure DCF has an emergency plan and provides publicly available crisis reporting.
  •  We continue conversations with individual legislators as well as the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, who are responsible for the oversight of DCF.

Our work with the legislature and relationships at the State House and with other child/youth serving organizations has positioned The Children’s Union to join with advocates from across the state in a Coalition to ensure:
  • Public access to real-time, COVID-19 crisis-related, DCF data and information so we all understand the impact of the crisis and the needs of the children, youth and families involved with DCF;
  • DCF has the attention and resources required to adjust its statewide operation to meet the current and on-going needs of the children, youth and families connected with DCF;
  • Cooperation and collaboration amongst advocates, DCF, the Legislature and other child welfare serving organizations to respond quickly to assist children, youth and families in weathering this crisis.

We believe transparency, accountability and cooperation are more critical than ever. We all have the right and the responsibility to know what is going on and to help. It is with this goal in mind that our pressing policy advocacy work will continue.

Learn More About The Child Welfare System With The Chronicle Of Social Change

The Chronicle of Social Change is a great resource for up-to-date, thoughtful and essential information for anyone interested in knowing what is happening in our child welfare system. We highly recommend following them on Facebook HERE . Here are two new articles we think you will find important. This first article is about how the idea of having “shared experiences” in the time of Covid-19 places a veil over the realities of vulnerable children in our society. We must acknowledge that children are in crisis and that our current situation creates ever-more challenges to child safety and well-being. In this second article , the problem of children only having virtual support is addressed.

Here are some resources that will help you address needs and keep up-to-date with important changes in the child welfare system of Massachusetts.

  • Resources, information and announcements from DCF related to COVID-19.
DCF Ombudsman Office OR call 617-748-2444

  • Message or call with general questions, or concerns about your case 
  • Ask questions about DCF policies and services

  • Complaint line is available to address concerns about a child or young adult who is receiving state services 
  • Call OCA if you are seeking resources, information, and other options to help address an issue.
  • OCA analyzes complaints and makes recommendations to improve services for children.