On November 6, Tom Mooney authored an insightful look at the vulnerable young girls in state care (Providence Journal Watchdog Report: Rhode Island’s Lost Girls).  Quite frankly, it is an awful commentary on how the state of Rhode Island is failing this vulnerable population.  When do we say enough is enough?

Two RI Family Court judges agree that we are in a dire state of affairs.  When these judges speak out, you know the situation is bad and this crisis did not happen overnight.

Psychiatric beds are few and far in between in Rhode Island – especially for young girls in state care.  The Training School is not an option and never should be.  These girls need treatment, not incarceration.

DCYF has been given millions of dollars in funding from the General Assembly to hire front-line workers, yet it has taken months. There is good news in that a sizable cohort of new employees start this month.  But, what has DCYF been doing to address this current problem long in the making?  Where will the girls go?  Who will care for them?

Staffing shortages across the country in the private health care sector are rampant and we need to address those issues sooner rather than later.  It saddens me to know that a child, at this very moment, could require placement and not get what she needs.

We cannot become complacent and think that this poor service model is OK.  We need to do better and we need to do it now.  Children in state care are fragile and, often, broken.  We cannot add to that at any cost, and fixing this situation is the only option.

It is well past time for the adults in the room at DCYF and in the McKee Administration get together and find a solution to house and care for these young girls and get them the services they need.

The author represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter.

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