Gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker calls on DCF chief to resign

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker today called on the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families to resign.

He said Olga I. Roche should step down to allow for a full reboot of the troubled agency.

“Running this agency is no easy task given the enormity of the responsibilities, but after a lengthy analysis of the facts, I feel the current commissioner should step aside,” Baker said in a statement.

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“From the outset, my immediate focus has been on acting quickly to protect the children in state custody, but to make the systemic reforms desperately needed to safeguard children and prevent another tragedy, new leadership is necessary,” he added.

Roche and her agency have faced immense scrutiny after DCF acknowledged in December that it had lost track of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who had been under its supervision since 2011. Oliver is feared dead.

Governor Deval Patrick today defended Roche.

“At any given time, you can pick out stories of tragedy and try to run somebody out of office on account of it,” he told reporters.

“What I know is, she, working with the team, under those very difficult circumstances, is doing their very best,” Patrick said.

The governor added that “they’ve got some reinforcements coming” in the form of a proposed budget increase and an outside review by the Child Welfare League of America.

Baker’s call for Roche’s resignation was earlier reported by the Boston Herald and the Associated Press.

He is running against one Republican for the GOP nomination for governor. Also hoping to succeed Patrick are five Democrats and three independent candidates.