CONNECTICUT DCF ON TRIAL
Monitor: DCF Short Of Goals
State child-protection workers are finalizing
adoptions faster, investigating complaints sooner and visiting children
in foster care more often, according to a new report issued by the
federal monitor overseeing the agency.
Despite those gains, many children under the care or
supervision of the Department of Children and Families lack complete
treatment plans and their basic medical, dental and mental health needs
are still unmet, the report said.
The agency recently achieved 10 of its 22 performance
goals, according to federal monitor Raymond Mancuso's review of 569
cases on file between February and May of this year. Mancuso filed his
report in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport Monday.
The department must meet all 22 goals by May 2006 and
sustain them through at least November 2006 to free itself from the
federal court oversight it has been under since 1991 as the result of a
settlement in a class-action lawsuit. The federally ordered goals are
part of a court-approved exit plan adopted in 2004.
"We see little or no chance DCF will achieve
compliance with the exit plan in November 2006, much less in the next
several years, if the state does not aggressively address these
long-standing problems, " said Steven Frederick, a Stamford lawyer who
is co-counsel in the class-action case along with Children's Rights
Inc., a New York-based nonprofit advocacy organization.
The areas where DCF is doing well include opening and
completing child abuse and neglect investigations promptly, reducing
worker caseloads, making timely visits to children in foster care and
putting children in stable foster care placements. The agency also is
meeting its goals in reducing maltreatment of children in foster care
and making timely transfers of guardianship.
DCF Chief of Staff Brian Mattiello said the
improvements have allowed the agency to excel in other areas. For
instance, the percentage of foster children adopted in 24 months or less
nearly tripled in the third quarter of this year when compared with
2003, he said. Once only 12 percent of DCF's applicable cases resulted
in adoptions within 24 months. That number jumped to 34 percent in the
quarter ending September 30, well within the federal goal of 32 percent.
In addition, Mattiello said the number of children
placed in permanent homes through either adoption or subsidized
guardianships is currently five times the level it was in 1996. There
were 786 new permanent homes found for children in the 2005 fiscal year
that ended June 30.
The number of children in institutional care has
dropped by 200, or 22 percent, since April 2004, Mattiello said. The
number of children placed out of state for treatment is down 40 percent,
with nearly 200 fewer youth currently out of state when compared with 10
months ago, state officials said.
But the agency continues to fail noticeably in larger
categories such as drawing up treatment plans for children in state care
and meeting their basic needs, the report said. Only 7 percent of the
569 cases reviewed showed complete treatment plans in the third quarter
of 2005, down from 17 percent in the last quarter of 2004, according to
the report. The agency's goal is 90 percent. In the 39 cases in which
treatment plans existed, only 21 children - out of 569 cases overall -
had both complete treatment plans and all their medical, dental and
mental health needs met, the report said.
"The reviewers found a significant number of cases
where a clearly identifiable need was documented ... but not
incorporated into the treatment plan," the monitor's report said. "The
current inadequacy of treatment plans seriously undermines determining
whether children and families' needs are met."
November 8, 2005