Connecticut Still Not Meeting Basic Needs of Kids and Families Due to Previous Administration’s Failures

Serious Challenges Remain for Governor Malloy’s New Child Welfare Leadership

HARTFORD, CT — The new leadership team at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has successfully maintained many improvements to the state foster care system, but has also inherited serious and persistent problems from the previous administration — specifically the continued failure to provide children and families with access to critical services — according to the latest report tracking a long-running, court-ordered reform effort spurred by Children’s Rights.

Today’s (PDF) notes that DCF is still failing to meet the basic service needs of more than 40 percent of the children and families involved with the state child welfare system — a statistic that has remained dismally low for more than four years. Because of previously stalled reform efforts, too many children in foster care are still not receiving necessary medical, dental, behavioral, and mental health services. Additionally, families are not being regularly referred to critical counseling programs such as domestic violence assistance or in-home services that would help strengthen their ability to parent.

“The last administration wasted an extraordinary amount of time and resources trying to find a way to end court oversight before fixing persistent problems that harm vulnerable kids and families,” said Ira Lustbader, associate director for Children’s Rights. “While there is a lot of work to be done to make up for the time lost, we are extremely impressed by DCF Commissioner Joette Katz’s ownership of the system’s shortfalls and her commitment to tackle these issues during her tenure.”

Connecticut’s previous administration under Governor Jodi Rell attempted to end federal court oversight in April 2010 without achieving the required reforms for children in foster care — which a federal judge ultimately rejected in September 2010, ordering DCF to immediately renew its work to complete the court-ordered reform effort. The state had also made several failed attempts to cut Connecticut’s Voluntary Services Program, which offers specialized treatment for children at risk of entering state custody due to serious mental, emotional, or behavioral problems.

While Commissioner Katz has publicly pledged to catalyze the state’s reform efforts in many of these problem areas, the independent monitor notes additional significant challenges for DCF:

However, in addition to outlining the challenges that lie ahead for DCF’s reform efforts, today’s report shows DCF has continued to maintain improvements in many important areas, including:

Today’s report was released by court-appointed monitor Raymond Mancuso and monitors the state’s performance during the first quarter of 2011.

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 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, and complete archive of documents related to the Juan F. case including today’s report, please visit www.childrensrights.org/connecticut.