Child welfare officials say they are already working to correct several problems highlighted in a report from the Office of the Child Advocate, which found two infants' deaths could have been prevented. The report looked at the deaths of three infants, two in state care and one whose parents had prior contact with the child welfare system.
The findings raised questions about safety for foster children, particularly children placed with relatives in unlicensed foster homes.
Jamia McDonald, the woman tapped by Governor Gina Raimondo to oversee a reorganization of the State Department of Children, Youth and Families said she applauds the work of the child advocate to review the infant deaths.
"I think the report is consistent with the challenges that we've already identified across the agency, many of which we've been tirelessly working to address," McDonald said.
According to the report, 320 children are currently in unlicensed foster homes. McDonald said many of those homes are in the process of becoming licensed.
"We are not concerned right now that children aren't safe in those settings," McDonald told RIPR. "Being in a kinship home is still the best for a child."
However, McDonald said the agency is working to streamline the licensing process for those families.
"It's making sure that our processes are moving as quickly as the placements are."
Under McDonald, DCYF has been working to address problems like over-worked caseworkers, outdated computer systems and a large number of children in group homes. But the report suggested concerns about oversight of foster families, finding that in at least one case, the agency missed signs of domestic abuse and other problems that might have contributed to the child's death.
In the report, the Office of the Child Advocate urged a review of the procedures for foster families, especially as the agency looks to place more children with foster families instead of in group homes.