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BOSTON- Representatives Steven Ultrino (D-Malden) and Lipper-Garabedian (D-Melrose) joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives on Thursday to pass two bills: one improving DCF reporting in an effort to increase transparency and the other to provide the mosquito control board with the necessary tools to fight mosquito-borne illnesses such as EEE.

H.4841, An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families, includes many measures to strengthen the reporting requirements to which the Department of Children and Families (DCF) must adhere. As the COVID-19 Pandemic has had an undeniable effect on children in the DCF system, the legislature prioritized researching and analyzing these trends in an effort to address reporting deficits. The bill incorporates many different elements, among which include:

· Codifying a foster parents’ bill of rights

· Strengthening the integrity of the Office of the Child Advocate which is charged with the safety and wellbeing of the children of the Commonwealth

· Requiring an analysis of the COVID-19 emergency on the state of services- the concerns for foster care children have been amplified by the pandemic, so this bill seeks to measure the severity of this impact

· Requiring DCF to report monthly to the legislature during the COVID-19 state of emergency

· Requiring DESE to ensure effective remote learning and engage the most vulnerable and at risk students and their families

· Requiring reporting abuse and neglect data monthly

The House also passed S.2757, An Act to mitigate arbovirus in the commonwealth, which provides additional resources to the Mosquito Control Board to battle mosquito-borne diseases. The bill allows the Department of Public Health to study the projected impact of mosquito-borne illnesses and then subsequently engage in mosquito prevention, management, and eradication in any area of the Commonwealth. The legislation also establishes a mechanism by which municipalities can opt out of aerial spraying and seek alternate control methods. Lastly, the bill establishes the a mosquito control task force which will continually study the Commonwealth’s mosquito control process and recommend comprehensive reforms.

“It is crucial to take action to both combat mosquito-borne illnesses and address the long overdue deficits in the DCF system, especially amid the COVID-19 state of emergency. I was proud to join my colleagues in passing these two necessary bills which both tackle extremely pressing issues,” said Representative Ultrino. “The lack of regular and comprehensive reporting in the Department of Children and Families can have devastating effects on the most vulnerable children in the Commonwealth. Passing this bill was a necessary step in addressing the shortfalls of the system and hopefully improving the care and treatment the foster care system provides these children.”

“Both bills passed this week aid the Commonwealth in responding to pressing risks to community wellbeing,” said Representative Lipper-Garabedian. “The DCF bill will increase coordinated attention on the safety of our most vulnerable children. It also is appropriately attuned to the challenges associated with COVID-19, including the pandemic’s impact on the work of the DCF; the number of K-12 students across the state who did not participate in learning in the spring 2020 school term; and the filing of child abuse and neglect reports.”

These bills now move to the Senate for a vote.


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