Some Massachusetts Group Homes for Children in Foster Care Did Not Always Comply With State Health and Safety Requirements
Although the Department of Early Education and Care (State licensing agency) performed the required onsite monitoring at all 30 of the group homes that we reviewed, this onsite monitoring did not ensure that all 30 homes complied with State licensing requirements related to the health and safety of children in foster care. Our onsite visits to the 30 selected group homes were conducted between May 2, 2016, and May 26, 2016. Specifically, at the time of our onsite visits, with regards to physical plant and equipment (facilities and equipment), we found that 27 group homes did not comply with 1 or more State requirements for living units, 26 group homes did not comply with one or more State requirements for buildings and grounds, 20 group homes did not comply with 1 or more State requirements related to bathing and toilet facilities, and 11 group homes did not comply with 1 or more State requirements related to toxic substances. In addition, we found that 15 group homes did not comply with State requirements regarding the care of residents, and 18 group homes did not comply with 1 or more required background records check or fingerprint submission requirements for employees.
We recommended that Massachusetts (1) work with the State licensing agency to ensure all instances of noncompliance are corrected, (2) consider adding a requirement in future contracts that the group homes conduct repairs and general upkeep within a specified timeframe, (3) increase the frequency of announced visits and consider including unannounced visits as part of its monitoring system, and (4) work with the State licensing agency to implement adequate monitoring controls to ensure that all group home employees who have the potential for unsupervised contact with children receive all of the required background record checks within a specific and reasonable timeframe. In written comments on our draft report, the State agency concurred with our first, third, and fourth recommendations, and it said that it will take our second recommendation into consideration for future contracts. In addition, the State agency outlined corrective actions and improved collaboration with the State's Department of Early Education and Care to address our findings and recommendations.