By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Stomach-churning details

The Boston Herald’s page-one stunner today is uncorroborated, but it’s on the record — and revolting. Jessica Van Sack’s interview with James McGonnell and Kelly Williams about Michael Riley, charged with murdering his 4-year-old daughter, Rebecca, with prescription medication, is stomach-churning. (McGonnell is Riley’s brother-in-law; Williams is McGonnell’s fiancée.)

As for Department of Social Services commissioner Harry Spence’s yet-again defense of his agency (Globe story here; Herald story here), my head tells me that he might be right, but my heart tells me that we’ve heard enough excuses over the years. Sorry, Mr. Spence, but Gov. Deval Patrick ought to personally escort you from the building by the end of today.

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  1. man who's thoroughly disgusted and not with DSS

    Maybe what Deval ought to do is give DSS the budget it needs to do the job we keep screaming it needs to do.Oh wait, that means more taxes? Oh, nevermind.

  2. Anonymous

    Oh, pulease… more money? DSS, stretched for moolah or not, had plenty of opportunity to intervene yet they chose not to.More money cannot buy better decisions.

  3. GoldsteinGoneWild

    Spence is good as gone. Romney’s people simply didn’t know anyone who could do the job. By contrast, Patrick’s chief-of-staff, Joan Wallace Benjamin, is heavily wired into the folks with resumes to lead DSS. She’s probably interviewing people as we speak.

  4. Brigid

    anon 12:10″More money cannot buy better decisions”Yes it can, if it is used to reduce caseloads and give social workers the tools they need to do their jobs. People who are stretched too far can’t pay proper attention to their work, which pretty much guarantees that things like this will happen. From everything I’ve read, DSS is hopelessly underfunded. I hope Patrick will do something about this. I’d rather pay more taxes than see more stories like this one.

  5. Anonymous

    One of the hidden truths about DSS is that they hire personnel with little social work experience and license them at the lowest level of social work licensure–LSWA. [See: is a real problem. We don’t ask paramedics to do nursing jobs, but we allow undereducated and underlicensed social workers to do some of the most difficult social work. Several years ago, Connecticut was forced to improve their stature of social workers partly because of this problem. Instead of giving the DSS a blank check, let’s raise the professionalism within its ranks. We have the School of Social Works within the Commonwealth to make this happen.

  6. Anonymous

    As far as the money issue goes the DSS returned 24 MILLION dollars in used funds last year to the feds – there is a big difference between a lack of money and a lack of desire. When there is no independent agency overseeing their operations what do people expect the results will be? For the overworked and underpaid card…I am personally sick of hearing it. Last week in was at the courthouse and saw three case workers thumbing through a magazine and commenting on clothing – this went on for about an hour. If they are under such time constraints then surely they must have had some paperwork they could have been working on while they waited??? If Deval Patrick does only one thing his whole time in office I hope it is run Harry Spence out of town – or wait maybe he’ll be appointed to a judgeship like the former Commissioner was on the grounds they all do such a fine job.

  7. Anonymous

    “As far as the money issue goes the DSS returned 24 MILLION dollars in used funds last year to the feds – there is a big difference between a lack of money and a lack of desire.”CORRECTION – that should have said UNUSED funds.

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