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OCA Project Reports

OCA reports on special projects, including evaluations and quality improvement reviews.

An OCA Report on Youth Suicide in Massachusetts

The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) prioritizes preventable childhood injury and death as one of our key areas of focus. Through this work, the OCA saw the need to prioritize and monitor youth suicide. Suicide is a leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24 nationally and in the Commonwealth. According to the most recent available data, in 2017, one youth died by suicide every four days in Massachusetts.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of youth has been of concern. Youth anxiety and depression are sharply on the rise and experts fear there will be an increase in suicide, especially among vulnerable populations of at-risk youth.

The following report is the result of the OCA’s desire to better understand youth suicide in Massachusetts generally, but also among our most vulnerable populations. The findings and recommendations in the report are the result of our analysis and identifying trends in the data that we believe require further prevention policy and program work. The OCA is committed to advancing our recommendations on this important, yet preventable, public health concern.

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Interagency Working Group on Residential Schools

After supported allegations of abuse and neglect at the Eagleton and Peck schools, Governor Baker asked the OCA to lead an interagency review of public and private residential and therapeutic day programs that provide education to children and young adults with complex needs. 

This report identifies key risk and safety factors for residential schools and makes recommendations for ensuring that this information can be collected, shared and used more effectively to improve oversight, align monitoring, and streamline incident notification and response.

 

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Child Fatality Review Needs Assessment

The Massachusetts Child Fatality Review (CFR) program was established in 2001 following the passage of MGL Ch. 38, Section 2A. According to the statute, the purpose of child fatality review is to “decrease the incidence of preventable child fatalities and near fatalities” in the Commonwealth. There are two types of CFR teams: the local teams, which are led by the District Attorneys, and the state team, which is co-chaired by the Office of the Medical Examiner (OCME) and the Department of Public Health (DPH).

In early 2016, the state team decided to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of the CFR program to determine the best ways to improve CFR at both the state and local levels.  The OCA agreed to take the lead on this assessment and is conducting it in two phases.  The first phase was an assessment of the local child fatality review teams, which the OCA completed in June 2017.  The second phase is an assessment of the state team, which was completed in spring 2018.  Below are the final reports from the local and state team needs assessments. 

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Quality Improvement Review and Analysis of the Office Management of DCF

The OCA was tasked with a Quality Improvement Review and Analysis of the Office Management of the Department of Children and Families (DCF)pursuant to Outside Section 219 of the Massachusetts Budget for FY15.  Four reports were released for this project:

  • The first interim report includes findings from a 2014 Suffolk University survey of DCF employees
  • The second interim report includes findings from a 2014 DCF survey of DCF parents/guardians who were former DCF clients
  • The third interim report highlights preliminary findings and outlines next steps for the project
  • The final report contains detailed information on findings and recommendations from the DCF management review

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An Evaluation of the DCF Administrative Hearing System

Pursuant to Administration and Finance Reserve Appropriation 1599-7771, the OCA was asked to choose an independent evaluation to review DCF's administrative hearing system.  The evaluation includes information on the timeliness of reviews, independence of those conducting the hearings, and the fairness of the system. 

The Ripples Group conducted this evaluation under contract with the OCA.  The following documents include quarterly progress reports, preliminary findings, and the final report. 

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