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LETTERS

Harsh light on risks to kids in Mass. group homes heightens need for more data

Governor Charlie Baker and child-protection officials announced systemwide reforms to the Department of Children and Families at a State House press conference in September 2015.
Governor Charlie Baker and child-protection officials announced systemwide reforms to the Department of Children and Families at a State House press conference in September 2015.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Thank you to Matt Stout and the Globe for shining a light on risks to children in the protective custody of the Commonwealth who are living in group care (”Virus found to hit youth homes in state harder,” Page A1, June 30). You point out these children are testing positive for COVID-19 at more than 20 times the rate of children in the general Massachusetts population. Alarmingly, you also note that children of color account for 47 percent of the Massachusetts group care population but only 19 percent of the state’s total population.

While the Department of Children and Families suggests that these rates may be due in part to increased testing, that’s no reassurance. The testing is necessary because, as with adults in nursing homes and prisons, these children are at heightened risk.

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Until now, media coverage during the COVID-19 crisis has focused on the speculation that, with children out of school, the child welfare system may miss risks to kids in their homes. But this report points out the risk children face when the state is their stand-in parent. It makes the case for public data, including regular updates on which facilities the cases are in, how children testing positive are being isolated, and race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation data on children testing positive.

Susan R. Elsen

Staff attorney and coordinator

Child Welfare Reform Project

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Boston

The writer is a member of the Massachusetts Child Welfare COVID-19 Coalition.