Roche has been under fire because of the deaths of three children under its supervision. Legislative leaders demanded her departure Monday.
Patrick said that changing commissioners while the agency is going through a difficult time is "a very very high-risk move," and that he still believes personally that Roche is up to the job. But he said the criticism has cost her the public's trust.
Roche had headed the Division of Children and Families for a year, first as acting commissioner and since October as the permanent one.
“I think it impossible for her to do the job that we’ve asked her to do in this environment,” Patrick said. “Whenever or whatever she does, still causes folks to call for her resignation.’’
In one high-profile case, Jeremiah Oliver, 5, of Fitchburg, was not reported missing for three months after he vanished in September, although a social worker was supposed to be tracking his family. The boy's body was found this month, and his mother and her boyfriend have been charged.
A baby, Aliana Lavigne, died about a month after her birth. Patrick suggested that police in Grafton share responsibility in that case.
Another newborn, Bailey Irish, died Saturday when she was 16 days old. The Division of Children and Families told WCVB-TV that a home visit on Friday was canceled because no one was home when the social worker arrived, and was rescheduled for Monday.
Erin Deveney, a lawyer and former chief of staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, is to become acting DCF commissioner.