The Agency of Human Services and the Department for Children and Families have come under fire for recent events including the death of two children at the hands of irresponsible adults – unimaginable tragedies for most of us. But consider the hundreds of children whose lives are being irreparably harmed every day by a combination of poor parenting and a system that is failing to ensure their social and emotional well-being.
Vermonters are calling for accountability (though notably missing is the voice of the so-called “advocacy groups” – most of whom depend on money from the Agency of Human Services). With such a ubiquitous call for change, why hasn’t anyone been held accountable?
We tend to seek scapegoats when accountability is actually a culture of leadership. Accountability is the connection (or incongruence) between our expectations and outcomes. And our top leaders have been thrown significant challenges of late.
Go ahead and call for the resignation of secretary Racine, commissioner Yacavone or his deputy. But don’t believe that will solve cultural problems that transcend them as individuals. The real issue that can be remedied is the political practice of entrusting exceptionally complex state agencies to people without content expertise. Secretary Racine has an impressive resume, none of which includes managing a sophisticated and complex human services program. This is cronyism and revolving-door politics.
Until we recruit qualified and experienced managers to lead our largest and arguably most important state agency with its $2.3 billion budget and 3,200 employees, we shouldn’t expect different outcomes. Accountability is not a person, it’s a culture - one we desperately need in Vermont.