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Youths' Shelter Stays Lengthy

Foster Parent Shortage Cited

By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer

March 20, 2008

The state's critical shortage of foster parents is forcing abused and neglected kids to stay longer than they should in temporary shelters, which can hurt their chances for adoption, a new report shows.

State policy dictates that children in emergency settings should be there for no more than 60 days, but a report by a federal official monitoring state child welfare services shows that some have been stuck there for nearly a year because they have no other place to go.

Department of Children and Families spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said the agency has lost about 90 foster homes in the past 14 months, some of which were taken off the rolls because the families adopted children in their care.

Kleeblatt said DCF is working to recruit foster parents and improve its planning so that children are placed in the most appropriate setting beneficial to their care.

"We do not find it acceptable that children are in temporary settings any longer than they need to be," Kleeblatt said. Anyone interested in being a paid foster parent can call DCF at 1-888-543-4376.

Connecticut Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein said she sees children being bounced around temporary foster homes and shelters all the time. The toll it takes on their emotions is tremendous, she said.

"It is so sad and discouraging for the kids," Milstein said. "Kids ask me all the time, 'Where will I wake up tomorrow?'"

Federal monitor Raymond Mancuso's report looked at 144 foster children ages 7 months to 18 years old who were in temporary placements for more than 60 days as of Oct. 1, 2007.

Of the total, 95 children, or 66 percent, were being held in inappropriate settings that were "detrimental to the child's well-being," Mancuso found. He said DCF has tried very hard to find new homes for shelter children some of whom have suffered significant trauma and need mental health services but it is not enough.

The monitor said DCF continues to fail to properly plan for a child's future and give them necessary assistance, like counseling, to keep them from getting kicked out of foster homes and placed in emergency shelters in the first place.

One legal advocate for foster children urged DCF to respond to this critical need to help children at risk.

"[This] report highlights ongoing problems in foster family recruitment that the new leadership of Connecticut's Department of Children and Families simply has not focused on enough," said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children's Rights, a New York-based advocacy group.

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.
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