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There are few things that I would consider myself truly passionate about. At the top of that list are my daughter and the safety and best interests of children.

With all of the issues this state has faced recently with the Department of Children and Families, state Rep. Sheila Harrington has stepped in to investigate and ensure something is done to protect the children in Massachusetts.

Sheila has been responsible for the creation, passion and drive behind Bill 4058 (malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4058). In short, this bill states that the “best interest of the child” needs to be the priority when deciding their future.

Before I became involved and educated on this subject, I assumed that the best interest of the child would have already been the first priority when deciding their fate. Yes, their best interest comes into consideration when making decisions, but it’s not the first priority.

The first priority, according to current law, is the biological parent’s current state of fitness. For example, a biological parent could lose their child due to neglect, drugs, abuse or some other reason. That biological parent doesn’t necessarily need to complete the service plan set forth by the state to regain custody.

This biological parent can be in and out of rehab, be a no-show for scheduled visits with their child, pass in dirty drug tests, but as long as they’re doing the right thing when their court date comes up, their “current fitness” is the top priority when making the decision of where this child will go.

I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes on more than one occasion.

Prior to being educated on this process, I really believed that there was no way a judge, lawyer or social worker would not ensure the best interest of the child. Yes, the best place for the child might be with a biological parent, if the biological parent is able to provide a safe and stable environment for them. If the biological parent has proven to be unstable and unable to follow through with the service plan provided to them by DCF, why would a judge assume they are fit to parent the child?

If the biological parent isn’t able to offer a stable and safe environment, the child should be placed in a kinship or nonrelative home that can. Doesn’t every child deserve at least that?

In my opinion, there is nothing more important than the safety of a child. When I think of a child being in the care of anyone (related or not) that isn’t ensuring that they are always safe and stable, it makes me ill. According to the current law in our state, that can and does happen more often than you can imagine.

DCF is protecting children from unsafe and unstable environments. At least that’s what they’re trying to do. The social workers at DCF signed up for a job to protect children. They took on a profession that they thought was noble and would help defenseless children. Unfortunately, with the way our current state law is written, their hands are tied. Judges and lawyers need to continually make the biological parent’s current fitness the main priority. What is best for the child comes into consideration, yes, but it’s not the top priority and it needs to be.

This is just one of the many initiatives that Sheila Harrington is driving to help better Massachusetts.

Sheila is the most caring, passionate, honest, hardworking and driven person I’ve ever met. There have been many times that I would have given up the good fight if it weren’t for Sheila. She’s a great listener, and she’s extremely intelligent.

Unfortunately, I’m not in her district, so I can’t vote for her. With all that Sheila has done for me and the children of Massachusetts, I feel as if asking you to vote for Sheila Harrington is the least I can do. She is the obvious choice to better Massachusetts.

Please vote to re-elect Sheila Harrington. Massachusetts is lucky to have her as a state representative.

Kelley White

Shirley

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