Last April, a child died because of poor IT solutions set up with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. A fax was left unread in the office — misplaced after no one was assigned fax machine duty during that time. Consequently, the caseworker in charger of 4-week-old Aliana Lavigne did not investigate the claim of potential child neglect filed by Grafton Police until almost a week later. By that time, the baby was dead.
The agency has not yet explained how a fax went missing for six days. Also a problem in the case was the time between when the social worker was assigned, and when they made their visit. The caseworker received Aliana’s file two days before she died. Yet, because the case did not receive emergency designation, the visit was not required to occur within 24 hours.
Police had visited the home multiple times for reports of the baby crying, and the mother, Andrea Lavigne, had a history of both psychotropic drug use and mental illness. She has already lost custody of an older child.
DCF has said that it is in the process of investigating what happened with Aliana’s report, and they are re-issuing instructions for Grafton police on who to contact, and how. They have also maintained that numerous healthcare professionals had had previous contact with the mother and baby, and none of them had reported concerns.
As the Boston Globe points out, childrens’ lives could be saved with better information technology — yet throughout the country, the systems keeping children safe continue to lag behind. “State procurement systems often do not keep up with technological progress, particularly in a data-heavy function like child welfare protection,” they explain.
They point out that in Indiana, investments in digital technology have paid off. Caseworkers use tablets now instead of paper and faxes that can get lost, and data services are used to distribute information across multiple agencies so that everyone is informed at the same time.