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Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Department of Children Youth & Families (DCYF)
Coat of arms of Rhode Island.svg
Agency overview
JurisdictionRhode Island
Headquarters101 Friendship Street
Providence, RI
Annual budgetUS$ 228.6 million (2019)[2]
Agency executive
  • Kevin Aucoin (Acting), Director
Parent agencyRhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services

The Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families (colloquially known as DCYF) is a Rhode Island state government agency headquartered in Providence, the state capitol, with regional offices throughout the state.[3][4] DCYF provides services for children and families such as foster care, adoption, behavioral health, and juvenile justice.[5] The DCYF is under the auspices of Rhode Island's Executive Office of Health and Human Services.[6] DCYF was led by embattled Director Trista Piccola from January 2017 when she was appointed by Governor Gina Raimondo until her resignation in July 2019 due to child fatalities, near-fatalities, overspending, and other issues.[7] The acting Director is longtime DCYF lawyer Kevin Aucoin.[8]

The Rhode Island DCYF has come under fire due to its relatively high rate of deaths and near-deaths of children in its care.[9] In a period between January 2016 and December 2017, there were 31 fatalities or near fatalities of children in its care, with eight being confirmed fatal.[9]

Controversies, abuse, and negligence

Nicholas Alahverdian

In an Associated Press article about foster care by AP investigative reporter David Klepper that appeared in over 100 newspapers, Rhode Island government employee and whistleblower Nicholas Alahverdian disclosed that Rhode Island had been spending millions of dollars on sending children out of Rhode Island.[10][11] Alahverdian reported that he was not allowed to contact anyone while in the Florida and Nebraska foster homes, including the courts, the police, his social worker, Rhode Island legislators, or anyone else that could help him escape the torture.[12]

Representative Roberto DaSilva, who introduced several bills on behalf of Nicholas Alahverdian, spoke to the Associated Press along with Alahverdian. Their joint efforts to reform DCYF received national coverage in August 2011. DaSilva's financial and ethical concerns were noted. Alahverdian noted that "It's an inhumane approach to a human problem. These are the most vulnerable people in Rhode Island. We have the ability to provide for them here. And we're spending all this money to ship them across the country." DaSilva agreed, stating: "The amount of money we're spending here is huge. There are facilities here in Rhode Island that could provide these services. And who does the oversight on these out-of-state facilities? Are they being watched as closely as the ones right here?"[13]

Night-to-night Program

From the late 1990s until the mid-2000s, DCYF engaged in a practice wherein a foster child without a home or otherwise any relative to stay with would be subjected to spending their days in a DCYF office building until the agency could find a temporary bed for them to be sheltered for the night, hence the name "night-to-night."

Former DCYF director Jay Lindgren promised that there would be "no kids in the hallways at DCYF late in the afternoon" in 2003, but the practice was not ended until much later.[14] Longtime Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr credited Nicholas Alahverdian and his fervent advocacy for reform with ending the brutal practice where kids were shuffled from unsafe home to unsafe home, unable to go to school, spend time participating in extra-curricular activities, sport, or preparing for university. Kerr said “regardless of what happens in federal court or at the State House, Alahverdian has left his mark. Night-to-night placement has been ended forever. [...] Alahverdian, I have to believe, had something to do with those changes.”[15] Night-to-night was one of the programs for which Alahverdian is known as a whistleblower since he alerted legislators and the media of the practice, first as a Rhode Island state government employee and then as a lobbyist until he was sent to Nebraska and Florida where he was raped, tortured, and prevented from speaking to anyone until his 18th birthday.[16][15][13][17]

Due to the legislators finally having the opportunity to get the facts from Alahverdian, the Rhode Island House of Representatives read and passed a resolution that requested "that the Department of Children, Youth and Families present a plan to the General Assembly on or before May 1, 2002 which will eliminate night to night placement in Fiscal Year 2002."[18]

The practice was condemned in yet another House of Representatives Resolution as it was still being practiced years later in 2011. Rep. Arthur Handy introduced a resolution creating an Emergency Oversight Commission on DCYF at the request of Lobbyist Alahverdian. He was joined in the resolution by Rep. Christopher Blazejewski and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams.[19]

June 2013 foster care death and abuse

In June 2013, a child's arm was broken at DCYF facility Harmony Hill School[20] and a toddler in foster care was found dead.[21] Following these incidents, The Providence Phoenix asserted that those in power in Rhode Island listen to Nicholas Alahverdian and his legislative ideas so that foster care abuse and deaths can be prevented.[22]

2018 Fetissenko Lawsuit

In August 2018, DCYF project manager Maxim Fetissenko alleged in a Rhode Island Superior Court complaint that his supervisors misused a $2 million federal government grant under his purview. Fetissenko alleges that senior DCYF staff altered his report to the supervising federal agencies and continued to do so despite his objections.[23]

Death of Zha-Nae Rothgeb

A girl, aged 9, in the care of a DCYF foster carer died in a bathtub in January 2019. The girl, who had cerebral palsy, died after spending at least eight hours in the bathtub. One state representative, Patricia Serpa, noted that "This is murder." The criticism of DCYF was aimed especially at its Director, Trista Piccola. Lima said at a Rhode Island House of Representatives Oversight Committee hearing that "None of you deserve to be there, none of you. If you had any honor, or any dignity, you would hand in your resignations immediately and walk away."[24]


Criticism from the Federal Government

In October 2018, the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, ordered DCYF to improve in 33 of 36 areas assessed.[25] The federal report noted that DCYF services were "inadequate, not developed when needed, or lacked consistent monitoring." Former Rhode Island government employee and whistleblower Nicholas Alahverdian called for the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass legislation that has been pending for nearly a decade.[26] Alahverdian stated "For three decades, we have seen reports nearly identical to this one: child deaths, an increase in caseloads, low staff morale, severe child abuse marked as “information” cases — cases that will not be investigated and that are only solely meant for taking reports and not conducting an investigation — and comprehensive pandemonium within the DCYF."[26] Harvard Kennedy School professor and former Obama Administration official Jeffrey Liebman agreed with Alahverdian and claimed that the DCYF is "the most messed-up agency ever."[26][27] Alahverdian remarked that his comprehensive DCYF reform legislation, supported by Reps. Ray Hull, Bob DaSilva, Arthur Handy, Michael Marcello, Anastasia P. Williams and many others would provide the solutions to the problems that ACF claimed DCYF needed to solve.[26]

Criticism from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

In 2014, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a report that revealed Rhode Island as third-highest in the nation (after Wyoming and Colorado) for placing youth in out-of-home placements, such as group homes and residential treatment facilities.[28] The report, which also cited high turnover rates and funding cuts, explained that 28% of the children in the DCYF system were in group homes and residential treatment facilities, as opposed to foster homes, adoptive homes, or living with relatives.[28]

Criticism from the Office of the Child Advocate

In 2018, the Office of the Child Advocate called for DCYF to be overhauled[29] due to the failure of the Child Protective Services division of the department to investigate all cases referred to them, lack of an intake process for new children and families, inadequate staffing, and the fact that 3,200 Rhode Island children were abused or neglected in DCYF care.[29]

Resignation of Director Trista Piccola

DCYF union members overwhelmingly that they had "no confidence" in Piccola following the death of 9-year-old Zha-Nae Rothgeb who was found unresponsive in a bathtub and later pronounced dead in hospital. Rothgeb's adoptive mother, Michele Rothgeb, housed 8 children, all under the care of DCYF. Later, Warwick police found Rothgeb's home filled with rubbish and human waste. She later faced a manslaughter charge.[30] Piccola accepted that DCYF was responsible for the death of the child, explaining that poor staffing decisions and "inadequate policies" failed to prevent the girl's death. The Rhode Island Office of the Child Advocate later revealed that three DCYF workers were terminated as a result of the death.[31]

Serpa and Rep. Charlene Lima called for the resignation of Trista Piccola, which finally occurred in July 2019.[7][32][33] Piccola was in the post for merely 2.5 years and cited her reason for leaving being a job offer to her husband, and that they were relocating to the state of Arizona. Piccola was appointed to the directorship in January 2017.[34]

Agency Operations

Financial issues

It was revealed in November 2019 that the DCYF is overspending its budget by $22 million in the current fiscal year. The Providence Journal reported that Rhode Island House of Representatives Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney was "not happy." The discovery was made when a quarterly spending report was made available to the public that showed the DCYF had overspent its legislature-approved $165.1-million budget by nearly $22 million.[35]

Juvenile corrections

The agency is responsible for the state's juvenile corrections. The Rhode Island Training School (RITS) is a secure residential facility for juvenile delinquents.[36] RITS is located in Cranston.[37]

A previous facility, with separate facilities for adjudicated boys and girls, was constructed in the 1960s. By the 2000s there were so few girls adjudicated in Rhode Island that they lived together in one unit and shared day schedules with boys.[38] In the 2000s the state ordered the construction of a new RITS building.[39] In 2009 Governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri proposed that Rhode Island Housing, a state agency that is set up like a corporation, buy the former RITS site in Cranston.[40]

2020 Legislation

In February 2020, Rhode Island State Representative Ray Hull introduced another bill to create a DCYF legislative oversight commission in honor of Nicholas Alahverdian. Hull told The Providence Journal that "I’ve known Nick since he was a young kid, and now he’s sick. I’m delighted to put this in because we have seen so much turmoil at DCYF over the last couple of years."[41] Hull was referring to Alahverdian's cancer diagnosis earlier in 2020.[42][43]

During the interview, Nicholas Alahverdian said, "an oversight commission would give legislators the authority, power and privilege to investigate DCYF in a way that has never been [conducted] before."[41] Co-sponsors of the bill included Reps. John J. Lombardi, David Bennett, and James N. McLaughlin.[44]

Alahverdian said of the legislation, "The policy of this bill is safety of children at every cost. The aim of this bill is adequate education and housing for children in the care of the state. People may ask at what cost. We say at any cost, for the life of a child in a system with a $600+ million budget deserves at the very least, food, schooling, and stable shelter, and if possible, a family life. We must never give up, and I certainly won’t."[45]


  1. ^ Rudin, Sofia (6 November 2019). "R.I. Child Advocate: "DCYF Is Desperate For More Workers"". The Public's Radio. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Governor unveils FY 2020 budget". ABC News. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  3. ^ "How Do I Contact DCYF...?." Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families. Retrieved on August 23, 2010.
  4. ^ "Region 1 (Providence)." Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families. Retrieved on August 23, 2010.
  5. ^ "About". Rhode Island - Department of Children, Youth & Families. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  6. ^ "EOHHS Departments". Rhode Island Government. 26 November 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b Kalunian, Kim (10 July 2019). "DCYF Director Piccola to leave post". CBS 12 News. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  8. ^ "Acting director appointed for Rhode Island DCYF". Associated Press. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  9. ^ a b Doiron, Sarah (20 August 2018). "DCYF report: 8 child fatalities, 23 near fatalities in RI over two-year span". CBS 12 News. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  10. ^ Klepper, David (14 August 2011). "RI pays millions to send foster kids out of state". The New Haven Register. Retrieved 13 Nov 2019.
  11. ^ Beale, Stephen (21 September 2012). "DCYF Spends $10 Million Sending Kids Out of State". Go Local Prov. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  12. ^ Watson, Shane (18 October 2018). "Nicholas Alahverdian calls for Gina Raimondo to drop out of Governor's race due to 1,450% increase in foster child fatalities". Arizona Daily Register. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Former foster child says Rhode Island failed him and others". Associated Press. 14 August 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  14. ^ Landis, Bruce (3 January 2003). "Task force rips child welfare". The Providence Journal.
  15. ^ a b Kerr, Bob (20 April 2012). "A hard lesson in what a state can do to a kid". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  16. ^ Kerr, Bob (24 November 2002). "A survivor tells the story of kid dumping". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  17. ^ Kerr, Bob (27 February 2011). "He knows the system inside and out". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  20. ^ Rappleye, Bill. "Woman claims school staff broke her son's arm". NBC News WJAR. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  21. ^ Krause, Nancy. "Police await tests in tot's death: Found unresponsive in bed at foster home". CBS 12 Eyewitness News. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  22. ^ Phillipe and Jorge (26 June 2013). "The Horrors Continue". The Providence Phoenix. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  23. ^ Mooney, Tom (2 August 2018). "R.I. DCYF sued, project director alleges misuse of $2M federal grant". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  24. ^ Cullinane, Ashley (13 June 2019). "'This is murder,' RI state representative says of DCYF's role in Warwick girl's death". NBC 10. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  25. ^ San Miguel, Michelle (5 October 2018). "DCYF needs improvements says ACF". NBC News. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  26. ^ a b c d Alahverdian, Nicholas. "DCYF expert calls for immediate House and Senate review of long-delayed DCYF legislation that would satisfy federal concerns". Digital Journal. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  27. ^ Alahverdian, Nicholas (7 April 2017). "DCYF workers need help to protect children". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  28. ^ a b Arditi, Lynn (5 June 2014). "DCYF report: RI children placed in group care at nearly twice national average". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  29. ^ a b Resende, Patricia (23 March 2017). "RI Child Advocate recommends system overhaul after deaths of four children". NBC 10 News. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  30. ^ "DCYF Director responds after union's 'no confidence' vote". NBC 10 News. 21 November 2019. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  31. ^ Mooney, Tom (11 June 2019). "Report: State ineptitude to blame for death of 9-year-old girl". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  32. ^ "DCYF director steps down". NBC 10 News. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  33. ^ Mooney, Tom (10 July 2019). "DCYF Director Trista Piccola to depart after tumultuous 2½-year tenure". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  34. ^ Dotzenrod, Nicole (10 January 2019). "Raimondo names Piccola new DCYF director". Providence Business News. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  35. ^ Gregg, Katherine (7 November 2019). "DCYF overspending its budget by millions in faceoff with R.I. General Assembly". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  36. ^ "Juvenile Correctional Services." Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families. Retrieved on August 23, 2010.
  37. ^ "DLLR's Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning." Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Retrieved on August 23, 2010.
  38. ^ "Proposal to Implement a New Treatment and Resocialization System for Adjudicated Youth in Rhode Island" (Archive). Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families. p. 10/21 ("Treatment Model"). Retrieved on December 16, 2015.
  39. ^ Gregg, Katherine. "Revenue shortfall boosts deficit." The Providence Journal. Tuesday September 1, 2009. Retrieved on August 23, 2010.
  40. ^ "State asks R.I. Housing to buy former Training School." Sunday December 20, 2009. Retrieved on August 23, 2010.
  41. ^ a b Mooney, Tom (17 February 2020). "DCYF oversight legislation proposed in honor of advocate". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  42. ^ Klamkin, Steve (9 January 2020). "DCYF critic, diagnosed with cancer, speaks out on troubled agency". WPRO News. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  43. ^ "Longtime child welfare advocate fighting cancer". NBC News. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  44. ^ "House Resolution Creating an Emergency Oversight Commission on the Department of Children, Youth, and Families" (PDF). State of Rhode Island General Assembly. 14 February 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  45. ^ "Rep. Ray Hull, other House Members Introduce Bill to Create Emergency DCYF Oversight Commission". 17 February 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 21 July 2020, at 09:55
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