Children in Crisis: Child Welfare in the Ocean State

Children in Crisis is a radio and online series exploring Rhode Island's troubled child welfare system. Stories investigate what's broken, how children and families are affected, and what's being done to fix the system.


Child welfare agencies across the country are struggling, but Rhode Island ranks last or near the bottom on some of the most important child welfare metrics, from the percentage of children placed in group homes to the number of children who cycle in and out of the system. Social workers carry caseloads nearly twice the recommended average. And after several recent reports found Rhode Island's Dept. of Children, Youth, and Families had been badly mismanaged, new management has been installed and the state police are investigating financial irregularities.

Meanwhile, children and their families have suffered. New efforts are underway to reform the agency and improve those child welfare metrics, but the process is slow, and reformers face challenges that have festered for years.

Following are links to each story in the series, including a full transcript and audio. Audio links are also included on this page for convenience.

Tichanda has spent most of her 19 years in group homes, a fact that stacks the decks against her.

DCYF social worker Katie Dalton juggles nearly 20 cases at a time. It's constant crisis intervention.

Foster kids have more medical problems than other children, in part because chronic stress early in life may alter their very DNA. Some health care providers want to reach them through clinics geared toward foster kids' mental and physical health.

Rhode Island doesn't have enough foster families to fill the need, but recruiting new families has been difficult, especially for tweens and teens.

A nationwide family home visiting program aims to prevent child abuse and neglect, and help kids get off to a healthy start. Will it work?

CASA director Andrew Johnson speaks with Rhode Island Public Radio's Kristin Gourlay about representing the interests of children in Family Court.


Listen to the remaining stories in this series, including my reporter's notebook, a foster child's story and a parent's story, on Rhode Island Public Radio's web site. Just click the link in the headline.

  • Children in Crisis: Can We Solve The Group Home Conundrum? (aired 8/20/15) 

    Reporter's notebook: Everyone agrees group homes aren't the best option for foster kids. We have some alternatives. Why aren't we using them?

  • Children in Crisis: Lisa's Story (online only) 

    Lisa's daughter was taken away after allegations of abuse. While her daughter grew up in foster care and group homes, Lisa tried to win her back.

  • Children in Crisis: Christian's Story (online only) 

    Christian feels betrayed by his parents, and sometimes by DCYF, the agency that looked after him as a teenager in and out of group homes. Now he wants to share his story, hoping it will give other kids like him some hope for the future.

  • Related coverage about Rhode Island's child welfare agency, the Dept. of Children, Youth, and Families, can be found here.