Advances Made for Kids in Connecticut Foster Care, Report Shows

CR: State must focus on mental health treatment, services for children

(New York, NY) — The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has made significant strides in improving care for abused, neglected and “at risk” children, but some serious systematic issues remain, according to a report (PDF) released today.

The report, submitted by an independent court monitor, shows that DCF met 17 of the 22 court-ordered benchmarks for child welfare reform, a longstanding effort that was spurred by the national advocacy organization Children’s Rights. The report covers the third quarter of 2013.

“Children’s Rights is encouraged by the strong leadership of DCF Commissioner Katz and some of the life-changing improvements DCF has made for abused and neglected children,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights. “Many more kids are living in homes with their families and loving relatives and far fewer are in inappropriate institutions. But the system still has some significant problems. State leaders must concentrate on providing quality mental health treatment, community based services are needed for kids when they leave group facilities, and the monitor is finding serious workload strains on front line caseworkers, compromising the quality of practice.”

On the issue of meeting the basic needs of children and families, the report shows DCF was in compliance in 67 percent of cases sampled and reviewed by the monitor. This is short of the required 80 percent benchmark, but still the state’s second highest performance since 2011. (The state’s high performance of 74 percent compliance came in the second quarter of 2013.) And Connecticut bettered its performance on the quality of case planning. Compliance continued to trend upward to 65 percent of the cases sampled, but still short of the 90 percent standard.

“This administration is moving in a positive direction, but more progress is needed to fully meet the promised improvements kids deserve and are required by the federal court orders,” Lustbader said.

Children in the class action known as Juan F. v. Rell, originally filed in 1989, are represented by Children’s Rights and Steven Frederick of the Stamford law firm Wofsey Rosen Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP. The case was filed against state officials on behalf of the approximately 6,000 children in the custody of the Connecticut child welfare system and thousands more at risk of entering custody.

For more information about Children’s Rights’ ongoing campaign to reform the Connecticut child welfare system under the case known as “Juan F., please visit www.childrensrights.org/connecticut.