NECIR Senior Reporter Jenifer McKim has won the 2016 Freedom of Information Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition for her series ‘Out of the shadows: Shining light on state failure to learn from rising child abuse and neglect deaths.’
Each year, the FOI Award is given to a New England journalist for a body of work that protects or advances the public’s right to know, and preference is given to applicants who overcome significant official resistance. McKim’s ‘Out of the shadows’ project required months of negotiations with public officials, and her relentless pursuit on behalf of the public resulted in revelations of 110 child abuse and neglect fatalities in Massachusetts, one third of which occurred under the watch of the Department of Children and Families.
McKim’s findings, including hundreds of state documents, were shared with the public in her stories ‘Out of the shadows’ and ‘Justice delayed in life and death,’ as well as in an interactive infographic that reveals the untold stories of the 110 children. The stories were first published at NECIR.org and in the Boston Sunday Globe and re-published and cited in more than 20 other local and national news organizations, including the New Yorker, the Huffington Post, the Marshall Project, Politico and the Spanish-language newspaper El Planeta.
“This award is a testament to Jenifer’s patience, perseverance, tenacity, and any other word that means ‘I’m not taking no for an answer.’” said NECIR Executive Director Joe Bergantino. “Those documents led to stories that will save hundreds of young lives. Jen’s work over the past year truly epitomizes our mission to hold the powerful accountable and make a difference in the lives of our readers.”
In addition to the accolades from the New England First Amendment Coalition, ‘Out of the shadows’ has had a major impact on state policy. Just two months after the first installment of the series, Governor Baker announced reforms to the Department of Children and Families that included the elimination of the 2-tier system for at-risk children that her story exposed as potentially harmful to children. The governor also announced plans to do criminal checks of all caretakers suspected of abuse and neglect, the lack of which was another shortfall highlighted in the NECIR stories.
McKim will receive the award on February 19th at NEFAC’s annual New England First Amendment Awards luncheon, an event to honor those who have promoted and defended the First Amendment throughout New England.