Lately it seems impossible to go an entire week without seeing or hearing a story about the embattled Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Three recent tragedies, all involving children connected to DCF, have again put the department on the front pages of newspapers and led to cries for changes in the child welfare system. Nonetheless, it is important that people look beyond the headlines and try to understand what DCF was created to do and to recognize the daily challenges state social workers must confront.
DCF has a simple and straight forward mission: Strive to protect children from abuse and neglect and, in partnership with families and communities, ensure children are able to grow and thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. While the mission is easy to understand, achieving it is more than complicated. DCF intervenes with thousands of families and children every year and in virtually every case it is with a family in active crisis. Drug abuse, neglect, sexual trauma, criminal activity, poverty, and mental health issues are common concerns for DCF social workers trying to effectuate a positive change in a child’s life. Helping a child overcome any one of these challenges seems daunting enough but helping a child thrive when confronted with most or all of these challenges is a herculean task. Headlines rarely capture these elements when dedicating 350 words or 75 seconds of air time to a case that DCF may have spent years trying to salvage.
Fortunately, change is on the way. Governor Charlie Baker has put forth major changes in an effort to support DCF and its mission. In addition to over $35 million in new funding, DCF has new procedures for tracking children and families, reducing caseloads for employees, training staff, assessing risk, managing intakes, and emergency responses. There is also an investment in technology and in resources such as reopening a shuttered regional office in Worcester. Given that DCF is tasked with saving at-risk children it seems likely that the department will always be a lightning rod when something goes wrong. Hopefully, all of the changes to DCF moving forward will help to shine a light on the countless times every year that things go right.
Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. At Venture Community Services, we believe everyone deserves respect. This March, we would like to encourage everyone to take a pledge to promote respect in our community – the pledge to remove the “R-word” permanently from your vocabulary. “Mentally retarded” is a term that was historically used in medical and clinical settings, yet in recent years it has become a commonly used insult, synonymous with “stupid”. Over time, the cultural meaning of this term has changed drastically, and has unfortunately become an offensive slur.
For individuals with intellectual disabilities and their loved ones, using this term as slang in everyday speech is hurtful and insulting. Although it may not be directed at an individual with a disability, it still reinforces negative stereotypes and creates a sense of non-acceptance within a community. Today, federal legislation has officially removed the term “mentally retarded” from all government communications and replaced it with “intellectual disability”. Many schools, organizations and individuals have followed suit.
This March, in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we would like to encourage you to make this same pledge and show support and respect for people in our community with intellectual disabilities. Please visit www.r-word.org to make your pledge today!
We would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to our brand new website, developed in part as acelebration of our new name and 40th anniversary.You have probably heard about our rebranding, but we wanted to tell our supporters a little bit about the process.
Together with the management team and the Board of Directors, we worked with the Sturbridge-based branding firm Smith & Jones Idea Agency to develop an image that represents our commitment to the people we support, our workforce and the community. We began by identifying what was important to us and what guides our work. These tenets became our core values – honesty, respect, integrity, innovation and compassion. These values are what inspire our work every day, whether it’s with our program participants, our donors or among employees. These ideals guided the development of every aspect of our new brand. We worked through many different ideas, but we decided on a name that represented our commitment to innovation and our investment in the future.
Venture represents a project, an endeavor, a journey. It evokes a feeling of new beginnings and fresh ideas. Once we reached a decision about our new name, Smith & Jones then helped us explore complimentary logos, colors, tag lines, and designs.We are especially proud of our logo, which incorporates the feeling of movement and thinking ahead. We have found that our special icon looks different to everyone – what do you see?
We are very excited our new image and brand, and we are happy to share this with our supporters through our new web site. Remember that our social media presence has also been updated – look for Venture Community Services on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and check back often for new blogs every month!