A state children's advocate said today that DCF knew Bella Bond's mother had had two older siblings taken away and had a long history of drug use and incarceration, yet simply closed her case when she moved out of a shelter 11 months after having her.
The body of Bella Neveah Amoroso Bond, 2 1/2, was found on the shore of Deer Island in June. Her mother's boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, was charged with her murder; her mother, Rachel Bond, also faces charges.
In a report released today, the state Office of the Child Advocate said mother and daughter should never have been left to fend for themselves in a Dorchester apartment after leaving a shelter 11 months after Bella's birth - which came after Rachel Bond was released from jail while pregnant with Bella.
During Ms. Bond's involvement with DCF in 2012 and 2013, DCF received mixed messages about her ability to be an adequate parent to Bella. Both concerns and strengths about Ms. Bond were expressed to DCF staff. However, her past history of arrests, substance abuse, mental health issues, instability and the termination of parental rights for two other children should have triggered higher-level conferences at DCF, and closer attention. DCF's knowledge of her history should have also dictated the need to thoroughly check recent information from all known collaterals and not rely on Ms. Bond's own statements.
The report continues that the Bond case exposes, again, systemic faults in the way the state oversees children in troubled families:
The death of Bella Bond is one of several tragedies over the past two years that have cast a spotlight on DCF and the difficult nature of their work with children and families. Ms. Bond's struggles are shared among the thousands of parents receiving services from DCF who wrestle with substance abuse, mental health issues, violence, and housing and income instability. Ms. Bond's path was complicated by having lost custody of her two older children and having been convicted of crimes and incarcerated. Nonetheless, her first year with Bella in the family shelter was relatively stable. With the support of the shelter staff, her probation officer, and other services, she was able to care for Bella's basic needs and remain out of jail. But these services are not designed to stay in place indefinitely, and after Ms. Bond moved to an apartment the outside services ended. Within twenty months, her old patterns reemerged and things fell apart, and no one from the community was watching out for Bella.