DCYF critic, diagnosed with cancer, speaks out on troubled agency

Photo courtesy Nicholas Alahverdian

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

A man who says he was abused as a child in the care of Rhode Island’s child welfare agency nearly two decades ago is renewing his fight to improve the agency, after being diagnosed with a likely fatal illness.

Nicholas Alahverdian says he was assaulted, beaten and raped and sent to group homes and placed out of state while in the care of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. He sued the state and the Sheriff’s Department, later settling the lawsuits in 2011 under terms that were not disclosed.

Now 32 years old, Alahverdian says he has been diagnosed with late stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and has been told by his doctors to curtail his activities.

“Unfortunately, this has come much too soon in my life. I’m only 32 years old and I wish I had the ability to live much longer to accomplish the things that I set about to do so many years ago,” he said.

Alahverdian also lobbied lawmakers in an unsuccessful bid to adopt legislation to outlaw the practice of out of state placements of DCYF wards.

“To this day, the legislation has not been passed, and it’s very unfortunate considering the amount of damage that this does to children and adolescents when they are sent so far from home and so far from New England,” he said.

Alahverdian took aim at Gov. Gina Raimondo’s appointments to head DCYF, who have left, leaving the agency with an acting director and a nationwide search for a replacement. Director Trista Piccola left in August, 2019 following several high profile deaths of children in DCYF care.

“It’s a mistake to try to look at what DCYF is going to look like ten years from now. For DCYF to be improved, it has to start today, it has to start with the social worker, it has to start at the initial steps, where there is pride at the agency as opposed to the overburdened social workers that we see today.”