Connecticut Must Complete Court-Ordered Child Welfare Reform, Federal Judge Rules

HARTFORD – Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families must immediately renew its work to complete a massive court-ordered effort to reform its child welfare services for thousands of abused and neglected kids statewide, according to a ruling today by the federal judge overseeing a class action brought by Children’s Rights, rejecting the state’s motion to end court oversight.

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Droney wrote in his decision (PDF) that “children in the state’s care face unneeded delay and disruption, and continue to go without important services,” and “this case will not end until the state has fully met its responsibilities in addressing the needs of these children.”

“Today’s ruling is a huge victory for Connecticut’s most vulnerable kids and families. While DCF has indeed made notable improvements, the unavoidable fact remains that it is still routinely failing to provide services to abused and neglect kids and vulnerable families that are fundamental to a well-functioning child welfare system,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director for Children’s Rights. “The court has said in no uncertain terms that it is time DCF to focus on the hard work ahead to meet its obligations to these children and Children’s Rights will continue to fight to ensure they meet those obligations.”

According to the last several reports issued by the independent monitor charged with tracking the state’s performance — including a new report issued just last week — families and youth in Connecticut continue to experience longstanding shortages and waitlists for behavioral health and substance abuse services; dental services; life skills and transitional services for teens in foster care; and in-home preventive services. DCF has also been found to be unsuccessful in its efforts to recruit and retain new foster and adoptive families, and failing to reduce the state’s reliance on institutions and group homes for kids in foster care.

Children’s Rights and state officials had negotiated a new court-enforceable agreement in 2008, which averted contempt proceedings initiated by Children’s Rights to address DCF’s poor performance on these very same critical measures noted above.

Children in the class action known as Juan F. v. Rell, originally filed in 1989, are represented by Children’s Rights and local co-counsel Steven Frederick of the Stamford law firm Wofsey Rosen Kweskin & Kuriansky. The case was filed against the state 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, and complete archive of documents related to the Juan F. case, please visit www.childrensrights.org/connecticut.

Related Media:

Ruling Keeps DCF Under Federal Oversight (Hartford Courant, 9/22/2010)