Embattled Roche goes on PR offensive to save job [Boston Herald :: ]
(Boston Herald (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 15--Beleaguered DCF chief Olga Roche, amid mounting calls to step down, launched a public relations charm offensive yesterday trumpeting testimonials from colleagues and advocates that attest to what they claim is the great job she is doing.
Under Roche's leadership, DCF has faced intense scrutiny for cases of neglect and abuse within the foster care system. The Herald has documented several cases in which at-risk kids were placed back in harm's way by the child welfare agency. The paper also revealed that hundreds of criminals were granted waivers to live in foster homes and that DCF rules allow felons convicted of violent and sexual crimes to become foster parents.
Roche, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, was touted as "a passionate advocate for children and families" and "a leader, a beacon of hope, change, and light" who is "up to the task ... to steer DCF through this difficult time," according to an email blast the agency fired off yesterday.
The tributes came from the heads of 16 advocacy groups and private and nonprofit agencies, including the Children's League, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and even the owner of several Domino's Pizza franchises.
Meanwhile, a growing army of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are pressing Gov. Deval Patrick to sack Roche immediately. All told, 24 Republicans were joined by 10 Democrats, including Danvers Rep. Theodore C. Speliotis, a member of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo's leadership team, in demanding Roche's ouster.
"The harm has been done," said state Rep. Anne Gobi, a Spencer Democrat and House committee chairwoman who signed a letter urging Patrick to fire Roche. There are "going to be more instances that (lawmakers) in their own districts are going to start hearing from people who are involved with DCF ... And as people start to hear more and more things ... I have a feeling there is going to be more legislative support calling for the resignation in the days ahead."
Patrick continued to stand by Roche, saying it's a "terrible time" to change leadership given the flood of bad press he said has "destabilized" the agency.
DCF spokesman Alec Loftus said some of the bouquets for Roche were unsolicited, while the department sought out others. "We wanted to show legislators the broad range of support that the commissioner holds," he said.
The email included an endorsement for Roche from Maurice Boisvert, CEO of You Inc.: "She is a passionate advocate for the families and children served by DCF."
Jacqueline Harris, executive director of Supportive Care, said: "Commissioner Roche is a leader, a beacon of hope, change, and light."
Erin G. Bradley, head of the Children's League of Massachusetts, wrote: "We have every hope that she is the leader to steer DCF through this difficult time."
And Jeff Dufficy, who owns more than a dozen Domino's franchises in the area, said of Roche: "Her long, dedicated history of serving vulnerable children makes her the ideal person to resolve the inherited issues facing the Department."
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