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Connecticut Child Welfare Reform Gains Major Momentum, Report Shows

(Hartford, CT) – The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has achieved some of its “best findings ever” in case planning and meeting children’s basic needs, two key areas that have long-plagued the state’s child welfare system, according to a report released today.

In the first quarter of 2016, DCF reached a five-year high of 66 percent compliance with case planning, a process that outlines the types of placements and services kids and families should receive. And its performance on meeting children’s basic needs, including mental health care, was at 70 percent, its highest in nearly three years. The independent court monitor who filed the report found “numerous examples of excellent case management, care coordination and service provision.”

The report evaluates DCF’s performance during the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, and shows that during the first quarter of this year, the agency reached 16 of its 22 court-ordered goals to improve child welfare. The report is the latest to be issued under a reform effort known as the Juan F. lawsuit, led by national advocacy organization Children’s Rights and Steven Frederick of the Stamford law firm Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, LLP.

“Commissioner Katz and her administration are moving in the right direction to reform the system for thousands of children and, if they can build on this recent progress, toward a successful exit from court oversight,” said Ira Lustbader, litigation director for Children’s Rights.

Although the monitor found that DCF is doing better at meeting the needs of children, some services are still not readily available in areas of the state. These include mentoring and domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health services. And some DCF offices continue to struggle with caseload and workload challenges, according to the report. “These issues will hold DCF back if unaddressed,” Lustbader said.

In addition, the monitor highlighted DCF’s “significant progress” on two “critical initiatives.” The agency is developing a new comprehensive computer system to streamline data entry and review, reduce paperwork and improve the management of workloads. It is also implementing a self-directed Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) process to evaluate and analyze its own work and “become less dependent on outside review.”