(Hartford Courant) Linares is calling for public hearings on recent tragedies involving children being cared for by DCF.

June 13, 2014

Capitol Watch Blog

The following is by The Hartford Courant’s summer intern, Matthew Q. Clarida :

Westbrook State Senator Art Linares is calling for public hearings on recent tragedies involving children being cared for by the state’s Department of Children and Families. According to state reports, nine children involved with the department died of non-natural causes during the first five months of this year.

“Throwing this process open to sunlight will improve our policies and help us to better protect vulnerable children,” Linares said in a statement. “Our mutual goal is to prevent future tragedies. The more opportunities we have to ask questions, the more opportunities we have to strengthen the system. These hearings are essential.”

In a letter to Capitol colleagues, Linares cited recent deaths to children involved with DCF, as well as a recommendation by the state’s Office of Child Advocate, as impetus for the hearings. Linares wrote that the hearing should be scheduled for a date after the office releases its report on all 2013 child deaths.

“A public hearing, I believe, would allow our panel to learn what is being done proactively to curtail these tragic events and help us to determine a timetable as to when investigations will be completed,” Linares, who is the ranking Senate Republican on the legislature’s Committee on Children. “A public hearing would also allow members of our panel to ask child advocacy officials questions about what their short and long-term needs are.”

Sarah Egan, the state’s child advocate, called the recent tragedies in the system “a very important issue for public discussion, and we look forward to participating in that discussion going forward.”

Connecticut is not the only state experiencing an alarming string of deaths within its child services system. A recent report in the Boston Globe cited state documents in reporting that 95 children under the watch of the Massachusetts DCF have died in least in part because of neglect since 2001.

“We appreciate the senator’s interest in child safety, which is of great concern to everyone who works here at the Department. States across the nation struggle with these tragic circumstances,” DCF Commissioner Joette Katz wrote in a statement on Wednesday night. “I can assure you, however, that we are striving each day to protect children the best we can and that we are committed to improving all our efforts on behalf of children and families.”