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Federal Court Approves End to Child Welfare Lawsuit in Connecticut, Citing Dramatic Improvements for Children and Families

Contact: Camilla Jenkins, cjenkins@childrensrights.org | 917-971-1784

Bridgeport, CT – In a milestone for Connecticut children and families served by its Department of Children and Families (DCF), Chief United States District Judge Stefan J. Underhill today ruled that the defendants in the Juan F. v. Lamont class action lawsuit, Governor Lamont and DCF Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes, have met and sustained all required outcome measures and, accordingly, issued an order closing the 32-year-old case. The children in the case are represented by Children’s Rights and Co-counsel Steven Frederick, Co-Managing Partner at Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, LLP.

The ruling comes on the heels of a recent motion to exit federal court oversight, jointly filed by DCF and plaintiffs’ counsel, citing organizational and operational changes that have dramatically improved the way the agency provides services, positively impacting the lives of children and families involved with DCF.

DCF now prioritizes keeping families together and avoiding the trauma of investigation, family separation and removal to foster care and has dramatically reduced the placement of children in institutions, while increasing the placement of children with relatives and kin, where children are known to do better and have better long-term outcomes. The agency has also demonstrated a real commitment to eliminating racial disparity in child welfare, and to providing community-based mental health services that play a key role in keeping kids at home, and families together.

“I have been a part of this lawsuit for over 20 years, and I am so grateful to finally see how this agency has truly made itself accountable to the kids and families it serves – that’s what this case was always about.  I have such deep respect for the vision and determination of Commissioner Dorantes and the DCF staff she so capably leads,” said Ira Lustbader, Chief Program Officer at Children’s Rights. “Through numerous administrations and many bumps in the road, today we see the results of a state’s commitment to taking a family-centered approach to transform the way children are treated by the system charged with their care.”

The progress made for children in Connecticut is nothing short of remarkable, and a beacon to other state child welfare systems. From 2006 to 2022, DCF: safely kept families together and cut the foster care population in half to 3,200; reduced the use of institutions and other facilities from 28% of children to under 7%; reduced the number of children sent to out of state facilities from 290 to 5; and increased the placement of children in the system with relatives and kin from 26% to 42%.

“As a Connecticut resident, I am proud to have served on this case for so many years, and to have witnessed DCF deliver measurable, sustained and durable improvements to the care and support of the children it serves,” said Steven Frederick, Co-Managing Partner at Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky LLP. “State leaders have fully embraced the reform process and, while the work is never done, DCF now has the tools and resources to make informed decisions for children and families and to ensure that the improvements it has made will be sustained over time.”

More information about Juan F. v. Lamont can be found here.

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Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.

ABOUT WOFSEY, ROSEN, KWESKIN & KURIANSKY, LLP

Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, LLP is a full-service law firm founded in 1915 with offices in Stamford and New Canaan Connecticut. For more information, please visit www.wrkk.com.