Jennifer Griffith: My investigators are out on a daily basis at different placements, checking out concerns. Am I here today to say that something like Blackstone could never happen again? I'm not. But I am proud of the work that we had done to shut that operation down because it needed to be. This is not something that turns into that kind of nefarious enterprise overnight. 

Sofia Rudin: Are your investigators seeing conditions that they think are adequate in group homes? 

Jennifer Griffith: Well, I think that's an interesting term. You know, what does adequate mean? Does it mean that we should be content with this idea of foster kids, or kids at the Training School, or kids and group home having adequate shelter and their needs met in adequate fashion? I do not. I find that to be an inadequate answer, actually, in that we should be seeking the same results that we would for the child we may have at home, or the child in our family, or one that lives on our street. 

Sofia Rudin: This fiscal year, DCYF's budget is $20 million short of what the department spent last year. This summer, you published a report on the death of a child in state care that included 21 recommendations for changes DCYF should make. Does the department have the resources it needs to make these changes? 

Jennifer Griffith: I don't believe they do. And I think it was the opportune time in budget season -- you know, the April, May, June hearings -- for the former director at that time to really express the needs of her employees. Unfortunately, it was not ‘til August that she had indicated at an oversight meeting that actually she did need more people. You will see the common theme through every report I've ever filed is that DCYF is desperate for more workers. 

And there is a member of my death review panel who had been administrator for many years. He has since retired. And he always remarks how, when he left there were 900 DCYF employees, and now we're looking at 630. Yes, I know people moved to Florida, but not at that rate at which you'd be losing about a quarter of your workers. 

Sofia Rudin: During this past legislative session, lawmakers changed Article 2 of the budget to tighten oversight of department spending. How do you anticipate this change will affect DCYF's work? 

Jennifer Griffith: Well, it's certainly going to be a challenge. But I think, as any administrator at DCYF would tell you, you can't control what comes in the door. You can’t control what happens in court. And you certainly can't control who's calling the hotline with what concern. National trends are very interesting until you are the one answering the phone, or you're the one at the door at DCYF. So you cannot control for child welfare cases on the increase. You know, in my conversations with Acting Director Kevin Aucoin, it's certainly something they'll being in compliance with, but it's certainly going to be a challenge. 

Sofia Rudin: And with the budget, it's easy to get abstract. But when it comes down to it, what does all this mean for foster families and foster youth? 

Jennifer Griffith: That's the thing. No one wants to... I come into it with the position -- I guess the unique position -- to say, I don't want anyone to be sacrificed. Whether it's a young man sentenced to a three month bid at the Training School, to a child who's in a medical facility, to a child who needs services at home, I don't want to weigh the interests of one over the other. So I don't know how much creative budgeting can be done. I don't know if we're past the time for that. But there are certainly priorities that we have that need to get dealt with.