Warren Discusses State Funding For Attorneys In Foster Care System
NEW BEDFORD – Newton Mayor Setti Warren met with attorneys and foster parents who represent children and families in foster care across Massachusetts on Monday.
The Democratic hopeful for Governor held a roundtable discussion to hear how the doling out of the state budget affects the attorneys who represent children and parents involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the attorneys of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS).
CPCS pays their attorneys through state funding, which they claim has been underfunding them over the last few years. Eve Gates, the treasurer of the Massachusetts Juvenile Bar Association and a care and protection attorney in New Bedford, was one of five CPCS attorneys who welcomed the Newton mayor to their office in New Bedford.
Gates called for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to properly fund the CPCS, noted in a press release from Setti Warren’s office.
“By underfunding the Committee for Public Counsel Services yet another year, Charlie Baker isn’t just failing to listen to our needs as attorneys, he isn’t listening to the needs of parents and their children involved in the DCF,” Gates said.
CPCS reports that expenditures increased by 15 percent between the 2014-2017 fiscal years. They report a rise of 6.4 percent in their allocated budget from the state, what Mayor Warren and his staff say makes the CPCS “habitually underfunded”.
Economic inequality throughout the state, especially within its budget, is a primary focus for Warren in his campaign. He says that “the CPCS gets caught up in Beacon Hill’s budget shell game” that ultimately leads to their attorneys missing out on payments.
“There are too many games involved with the budgeting process on Beacon Hill,” Setti Warren said.
“One of the reasons of why I wanted to come down here is so we could have a real discussion of the effects of these games. If we don’t actually have these honest discussions it won’t change” said Warren.
The discussion mostly focused on the amount of time a CPCS attorney invests in their clients in not only the hearings, but as well through the house calls and checking on kids that care and protection attorneys must perform.
They say that roughly fifty dollars per hour they earn in payment from the state is not nearly enough for the amount of time dedicated to preparing for the cases of their clients on top of the trips to check in on them; trips that they say can “put themselves into potentially dangerous situations”.
Jennifer Gaboriault is a foster parent on the south shore who began taking foster children into her home after working as a nurse at Rhode Island Hospital. Gaboriault and her wife have had more than 30 children in and out of their home, and have worked closely with the DCF and CPCS over the years. She attended the discussion with Mayor Warren to explain how the underfunding of CPCS attorneys and the DCF in the state budget affects the children.
“Unfortunately I do think that the DCF is underfunded. The attorneys don’t get paid enough, the social workers are over worked and underpaid, and unfortunately I think the children suffer,” Gaboriault said.
“They suffer because they stay in the system too long. I think children are pulled prematurely [and] there needs to be more funding that goes into services that we could put in place for parents who potentially could keep the children in the home” she said.
Before closing out the meeting the Newton mayor continued to criticize Governor Charlie Baker for his level of transparency with the state budget and for not properly allocating funds to the CPCS and DCF.
“We’ve got to be honest about these budgets. As I’ve been saying for months, the governor needs to put out level service budget along with the folks on Beacon Hill Senate and House,” said Warren. “We need to have governor on Beacon Hill that’s going to be truthful and honest about protecting children and making sure that the investments are there. It all starts with transparency.”
The meeting was held at the Law Offices of David A. Jorge in downtown New Bedford. Panel Participants who spoke with Setti Warren in addition to Gates and Gaboriault were attorneys Emily Curtis, Jessica Thomas, Jillian Ellis, and Ross Bluestein.