State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, was recently recognized for his “outstanding leadership for children and families in Massachusetts.” Youth Villages, which presented Barrett with its Champion Award, partners with the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide in-home support for families and for children with emotional and behavioral challenges.
“Senator Barrett has proven to be a true champion for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable children,” said Matt Stone, Executive Director of Youth Villages Massachusetts. “Over the past year, he has been instrumental in helping guide reform in the children’s services system. He has been a strong advocate to increase funding for services that stabilize and strengthen families — services that are among the most effective in safely helping children and families live successfully in the community.”
At the Youth Villages award ceremony and later as a panelist at a Boston Foundation event, Barrett reflected on recent reforms to DCF in the wake of several tragedies.
Barrett — who serves as Senate Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities — noted that the new fiscal year budget adds $48 million dollars to the troubled department — a 6.2% boost from the previous year. “That was not a guaranteed outcome,” he said, “but the Legislature heard the message.” New funds have been used to beef up staffing at the agency. iPads have been deployed to allow social workers to enter crucial information sooner.
But there’s still more work to do, Barrett stressed. He pointed out that funding for family support and stabilization — such as services for children still living at home — has remained the same. During the budget debate back in May, Barrett sponsored an amendment to add $5.4 million to that sub-section of the DCF budget. The proposal did not make it through. “The next set of agenda items must include family reunification funding,” Barrett said.