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Monitor: DCF Is Doing Better

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 monitor said.

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. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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