(New York, NY) – While the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has made significant improvements under the leadership of Commissioner Joette Katz – such as safely reducing the number of kids in state care and keeping more children in family homes and with relatives and far fewer in institutions – DCF is falling behind in crucial areas, according to a report released today.
The latest report, submitted by an independent federal court monitor, covers DCF’s performance through the fourth quarter of 2014. It shows the agency met 16 of the 22 court-ordered benchmarks for child welfare reform, a longstanding effort that was spurred by the national advocacy organization Children’s Rights.
According to the report, the state is only at 42 percent compliance (a three-year low) with case planning, a process that sets the road map for types of placements and services kids and families should receive. And its performance on meeting children’s basic needs is at just 53 percent compliance, a four-year low. In some areas of the state, key services – including those to help kids and families with domestic violence, substance abuse, housing and outpatient mental health care – are not readily accessible, according to the report. And the monitor notes that some caseworkers are either not making, or delaying, necessary referrals “due to staff having knowledge that some services are not readily available.”
“DCF Commissioner Katz and Governor Malloy are at a crossroads in terms of making good on their bold promise to better child welfare for thousands of abused and neglected children,” said Ira Lustbader, litigation director for Children’s Rights. “Connecticut’s well documented shortage in critical supportive services is undermining the major positive reforms this administration has made.”
In a response to the monitor’s findings – included as an appendix to the report – Commissioner Katz states that “fiscal issues present themselves as particularly challenging” and Connecticut is facing “deficits that are requiring continued belt tightening.”
“While this administration has shown the leadership, strength and vision to tackle some longstanding problems, it is clear that the state’s current shortcomings are far beyond belt tightening and need to be remedied now,” said Lustbader.
Children in the class action known as Juan F. v. Malloy, 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.