However, Basic Services for Kids Still Lacking
(Hartford) — Connecticut’s Department of Children & Families (DCF) is making progress toward eventually meeting all required improvements under a long-standing reform plan, spurred by the national advocacy group Children’s Rights. A monitoring report released today says that during the three-month period ending December 31, 2011, the agency met 18 of the 22 areas of court-ordered reforms, up from 16 the previous quarter.
The report (PDF) shows that DCF is tackling its historic overreliance on its use of shelters, group homes and residential treatment centers. According to the report, the number of young children placed in these institutional living facilities decreased from 105 in November 2011, to 90 as of February 2012. The report also recognized the system’s efforts to bring children placed in out-of-state facilities back to Connecticut.
“DCF is finally taking strides to undo its long, harmful overuse of institutional housing for foster kids,” said Ira Lustbader, Associate Director of Children’s Rights. “What’s critical now is that the Monitor measures how kids are doing under this important initiative. Are the kids and families caring for them getting the supports they need?”
The report confirmed continued progress in other areas:
- DCF placed 96 percent of children in homes that were within their licensed bed capacity, rather than overcrowded homes.
- DCF decreased the rate of children re-entering state care to 6.4 percent.
- DCF referred 100 percent of children to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services or the Department of Retardation when necessary.
“DCF demonstrated solid improvement with a variety of initiatives,” said Lustbader. “However, there are still areas where the agency is lagging, particularly when it comes to meeting kids’ basic service needs, like mental health services, or life skills and transitional programs.”
The report said that “service gaps” still exist in a variety of other critical areas such as substance abuse and domestic violence treatment programs. Of the cases sampled, DCF met childrens’ needs 56 percent of the time, a slight decrease from the previous quarter’s rate of 60 percent.
DCF also underperformed when it came to providing foster youths age 18 or older with educational and/or vocational goals. Only 63 percent of the kids surveyed received such support services, which fails to meet the reform plan’s requirement of 85 percent. This is its worst performance in discharge measures since 2004.
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, please visit www.childrensrights.org/connecticut.