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Improvements Under Federal Court Oversight Down to 10 as DCF Achieves Successful Exit Over 4 More Goals, Including Sustained Reduction in Housing Children in Group Facilities
(Bridgeport, CT) – Today an independent court monitor released the latest report on Connecticut’s ongoing efforts to improve its child welfare system, showing that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has maintained or improved performance in several key areas and has made more progress toward full compliance with improvements under the court-ordered 2017 Revised Exit Plan.
The monitoring report, covering October 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, is part of the federal civil rights reform lawsuit known as Juan F. v. Malloy. The lawsuit, led by national advocacy organization Children’s Rights and Steven Frederick of Stamford-based Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, LLP, requires specific improvements to DCF’s system for protecting abused, neglected and at-risk children in DCF custody, as well as those at risk of entering custody.
The new report details DCF’s performance on the remaining priority areas of concern as established in the Revised Exit Plan, which was renegotiated last year. The new plan allows DCF to focus on these priorities, which include providing much-needed relief to overburdened caseworkers through lower caseload limits and the development of a new Strategic Plan to address urgent remaining challenges such as the delivery of community-based outpatient mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence services for kids and families.
Most promisingly, the court monitor found that DCF has successfully met and will exit from four improvement goals, including:
- Decreasing the number of children in group facilities and institutions.
- Placing more children with siblings,
- Limiting the number of moves for children in foster care,
- Ensuring that children are placed in homes operating within their licensed capacity.
DCF’s efforts to dramatically reduce the use of non-family group and institutional placements for children in foster care are especially notable. In 2011, DCF housed approximately one-fourth of all of the approximately 4900 children in foster care in such placements. Today, less than 10% of children are in such placements, with only 17 children age 12 and under in non-family placements and only 89 children in intensive residential institutional placements. Another notable success has been DCF’s ability to safely lower the number of children in foster care and maximize the number of children who can remain safely at home without being removed, with 4100 children in state care in 2016 compared to 4900 in 2011.
“DCF’s achievement under Commissioner Katz in emphasizing families over facilities for kids deserves significant credit,” said Ira Lustbader, director of litigation for Children’s Rights. “This administration dismantled the state’s longstanding harmful and expensive reliance on group facilities, which took a lot of guts and hard work.”
“We are gratified that DCF has continued to make progress and build momentum to make vulnerable children safer and healthier,” said Steven Frederick, a partner at the firm Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky and co-counsel for Plaintiffs. “While there are certainly challenges ahead, the key is not to slide backwards in an election year—that would unacceptably delay a successful end to this federal case and harm children and families.”
Looking ahead, the court monitor notes some concerning resource challenges: “Governor Malloy and Secretary Barnes have been instrumental in supporting the needs of Connecticut’s abused and neglected children by advocating additional staffing,” the monitor wrote in the report. “The budget passed by the legislature compromises these gains in staffing and also requires cuts in sorely needed community services.”
For more information on Juan F. v. Malloy, please visit www.childrensrights.org/connecticut.
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About Children’s Rights: Fighting to transform America’s failing child welfare, juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems is one of the most important social justice movements of our time. Through strategic advocacy and legal action, Children’s Rights holds state governments accountable to America’s most vulnerable children. A national watchdog organization since 1995, Children’s Rights fights to protect and defend the rights of young people, because we believe that children have the right to the best possible futures. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.
Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky is a full-service law firm founded in 1915 with offices in Stamford and New Canaan Connecticut. For more information, please visit wrkk.com.