But Report Says Agency Has Much Work To Do In Treatment Plans And Medical Needs
March 25, 2006
By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer
The Department of Children and Families
is making "tremendous progress" toward its federally mandated
goals of improving the lives of abused and neglected children, but
there are still significant areas that need work, a federal monitor
reported this week.
On the positive side, DCF is doing
better at visiting abused children in foster homes, searching for
relatives before placing kids in foster care and keeping siblings
together in foster families.
Overall, the agency has met or very
nearly met 18 of the 22 service goals needed to free itself from
federal court oversight, according to data released by DCF and federal
monitor Raymond Mancuso.
But significant improvement remains
to be made in two crucial areas, according to the monitor. The agency
continues to fail to develop clear and concise treatment plans for
neglected children within 60 days of their entry into department
care and to meet children and families' medical, dental and mental
health needs while they are under agency supervision.
Despite the state's opening of new
therapeutic group homes and other initiatives, "hundreds of
children remain in placements well beyond the time that is therapeutically
indicated, and wait lists for vital community services continue
to exist in many areas," Mancuso wrote in his 16-page quarterly
review released Thursday.
The monitor reviewed 42 children's
cases over the past three months. Fewer than half had treatment
plans that clearly identified family needs, parental responsibilities
and the services they were receiving. Fewer than half documented
whether medical, dental or mental health needs were being met, the
New York attorney Ira Lustbader said
the agency's failure to meet families' needs and draft suitable
treatment plans was a "significant failure" and a huge
hole in its quest to remove federal oversight.
As associate director of Children's
Rights Inc., Lustbader represents thousands of Connecticut's abused
and neglected foster children in a federal class-action lawsuit
that led to the DCF's being placed under federal supervision.
Lustbader said the agency's repeated
failure over the past two years to address these issues was inexcusable
in light of DCF's annual budget of nearly $800 million.
Lustbader said his organization recently
filed a complaint with U.S. District Court Judge Alan H. Nevas accusing
the DCF of non-compliance with the judge's order to improve. The
move prompted immediate negotiations to resolve the matter.
Lustbader said the DCF must develop
more aggressive and creative strategies to improve services to families
and children in need and who deserve quality care.
Agency spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said
evaluating the DCF's success in treatment planning and meeting families'
needs is very complex. He said state officials are working with
the monitor and children's attorneys to possibly change how the
agency is scored.
Kleeblatt said top agency officials
are also working with their social workers to improve training in
treatment planning and decision-making skills.
The agency is also working to improve
its case management and treatment alternatives like therapeutic
group homes, he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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