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The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families says it is reforming its practices following the death of the young girl who was found dead in the Boston Harbor, and for months was not identified.
The agency visited 2-year-old Bella Bond, who until recently was known only as Baby Doe, twice during her short lifetime. Last week, Bella's mother, Rachelle Bond, and Bond's boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, were arrested in the murder of the girl, who was just shy of her third birthday when she was killed.
“What happened to Baby Bella is a terrible tragedy and while the child’s case was closed over two years ago under the previous administration, the department is looking into the matter in efforts to improve the way the department cares for the children in its custody," Andrea Grossman, a Department of Children and Families spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Child services workers met with Bella when she was an infant in late 2012 and again in 2013 to provide support for neglect. The cases were closed after services were provided. Years before Bella was born, DCF removed two other children from Bond's custody.
At their arraignment on Monday, a prosecutor claimed Bella was home with Bond and McCarthy one night and refusing to go to bed when McCarthy allegedly punched her in the stomach until she stopped breathing. McCarthy, 35, is charged with murder, while Bond, 40, is charged as an accessory after the fact.
Bella's body was found in a trash bag on a beach on June 25.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said improving DCF is a top priority.
"You have a lot of really well-intentioned, hard-working people, but you have nowhere near as much consistency with respect to what I would describe as the playbook that people should be relying on and working with," he told reporters.
Grossman said improvements are already happening.
"Since taking over, the Baker administration has increased DCF’s funding to the highest level in recent history, supplied caseworkers with updated technology and DCF has hired 300 new social workers,” she said in her statement.
But Bella's case has been a stark reminder that children are still falling through the cracks. Baker said it was sad that DCF hadn't had any contact with Bella since 2013.
"Despite all these people who've now come forward and said I had issue A or issue B or issue C, I wish, I really wish somebody had picked up the phone and called DCF and raised this and reported some of their concerns," Baker said. "These cases, these kids, as a parent, break my heart."
Neighbors told the Boston Globe that Bond would frequently leave Bella with them and often wouldn't come to pick her up until 1 or 2 a.m.
“Sometimes she wouldn’t even ask” before dropping her off, Arthur H. Dutrizac, 80, told the Globe.
One of Bond's older kids lives with a maternal grandmother, according to DCF. The other was adopted by an unrelated family.
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday that Bella's death exposed "broader failures within the system."