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Baker Picks Spears To Head Child Welfare Agency

Jim Levulis

A child welfare specialist who led an outside examination of Massachusetts’ embattled Department of Children and Families has been named by Governor-elect Charlie Baker to lead the agency.Linda Spears currently serves as a vice president for Child Welfare League of America.

Last year the organization reviewed the agency following the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy whose body was later found alongside a highway.

Its report found staffing problems and inconsistent case handling due to out-of-date policies. During the campaign Baker, who oversaw DCF as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the early 1990s, said the deaths of two others under the agency’s supervision could have been avoided.

“Don’t think about the Department of Children and Families as a statewide entity,” Baker said in April 2014 following the resignation of DCF Commissioner Olga Roche. “Think about it on a region by region basis and build a plan based on what you know about what’s going on each region to address whatever the soft spots are in each part of Massachusetts. Take a look at what’s going on with abuse reports, so-called 51As, that are getting screened in and screened by each region and why. Make sure you understand what’s going on with their relationships with the police departments, daycare providers and schools in each region and why.”

Baker on Monday also named Fransciso Urena, commissioner of veterans' services for Boston, to serve as state secretary for Veterans' Services.

Baker, a Republican, takes office on Thursday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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