By State House News Service

BOSTON -- Lawmakers continue to simmer over problems at the Department of Children and Families, which has fired three employees with ties to the case of missing 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg while absorbing criticism that it's not doing enough to protect abused and neglected children in other parts of the state.

While lawmakers have yet to call Patrick administration officials before them for oversight hearings, two senators Monday asked for details of a planned independent review of the agency, worrying it may be too narrow.

Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, and Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, want the Children's Welfare League of America review to examine management, administration and policy issues that might have contributed to the mishandling of Oliver's case, as well as a probe into allegations from the Northbridge school superintendent that the agency was lax in its pursuit of child protection.

"We want to know what happened in these cases and why," Creem and Barrett wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, asking for a description of the scope of the independent review and an update from the department on any potential present threats to children.

Creem chairs the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee and Barrett co-chairs the Joint Committee on Children and Families.


In the letter, released by Creem's office, the senators wrote to Polanowicz, "As you know from your private sector experience, the value of an outside analysis is only as good as the questions asked. As the wrong questions, or ask too few, and decision-makers and citizens will not get back the insights they need."

The House Post Audit and Oversight Committee has scheduled a Jan. 23 oversight hearing on the Department of Children and Families.