Child welfare bosses now tracking why kids are in foster care

BOSTON — More than 9,000 Massachusetts children are in foster care, but FOX25 Investigates has learned the state didn’t track why those kids are in state custody until recently.

The Department of Children and Families upgraded its computer system in February to track whether kids are coming from families with domestic violence, mental illness, prescription or non-prescription opioid abuse or are victims of human trafficking.

A child advocate says that information is key to helping some of the state’s most vulnerable.

“We could say anecdotally that yes, a lot of kids that are coming into the system are because of that opioid crisis that we're having right now but there's no way to tell exactly how many children that is,” said Erin Bradley, executive director of Children’s League of Massachusetts. “This will be a good tool for us to use to make sure that the kids and families are getting the services that they need in a timely fashion.”

DCF officials say the upgrade will provide better data, but they don’t expect to have statistics for at least several months from now.

“Over time, these technology improvements will allow the Department to better track and understand the challenges impacting our families and child safety,” said DCF spokeswoman Andrea Grossman in a statement. “We are working hard to roll out the upgrades in an effort to develop a more robust child welfare information system.”