- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - The state’s child protection agency has been back in the spotlight in recent months over its handling of several high-profile cases, including that of 2-year-old Bella Bond. Her identity remained a mystery for several months after her remains washed up in Boston and prosecutors now say was murdered.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced several changes in policies and procedures at the Department of Children and Families, including:

- A revised intake policy aimed at providing a standardized risk assessment that social workers will make upon receiving an allegation of abuse and neglect of a child. The assessment will include a review of the family’s past involvement, if any, with DCF, a criminal background check and a review of the type and frequency of past 911 calls to the family’s home.

- An examination by regional office directors of “complex in-home cases” where authorities have received multiple abuse reports.

- Strategic efforts to recruit and retain social workers with the goal of reducing average caseload from the current 20.7 to 18.

- The reopening of DCF’s central Massachusetts office, which was closed amid state budget cuts in 2009 and has led to the agency’s western Massachusetts office taking on more than half of the state’s caseload.

- A reduction in the backlog of processing applications from people wishing to provide foster homes.

- Restoration of social worker technicians, a nonclinical support position that was also eliminated during previous budget cuts, and creation of a new medical social worker position.

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