Sen. Art Linares Calls for Hearings in Wake of Child Tragedies; Says Transparency Must Be Priority

June 11, 2014

Citing recent tragedies involving children under the care of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), Sen. Art Linares (R-Westbrook) today called for public hearings to review the child fatalities, to determine whether state law is being adhered to, and to assess the resources of state children’s welfare officials.

Linares, the ranking member on the legislature’s Committee on Children, said the public hearings would serve the “interests of transparency.”

“Throwing this process open to sunlight will improve our policies and help us to better protect vulnerable children,” Linares said. “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 the co-chairs of the committee (attached), Linares urged the panel to schedule a public hearing following the release of an upcoming report from the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) on all 2013 child deaths.

Linares also called for separate public hearing to determine whether the state law requiring child fatality reviews by DCF and OCA is being complied with in a timely fashion, whether DCF and OCA have the tools they need to conduct thorough and timely investigations, and whether there are legal impediments to their investigations that could be removed.

The Office of the Child Advocate is currently finalizing an in-depth review of all 2013 deaths involving children under DCF care. Two of the children were homicide victims. Other causes of death among infants and toddlers were abuse, an auto crash, asphyxiation and unsafe sleeping conditions.

Linares said the public hearings would also allow members of the Committee on Children to pose questions to child advocacy officials about their short and long-term needs. He said the hearings would enable legislators to learn what is being done proactively to curtail these tragic events. Linares said hearings would also help determine a timetable as to when investigations will be completed.

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Sen. Dante Bartolomeo
Co-Chair, Committee on Children
Legislative Office Building
300 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Rep. Diana Urban
Co-Chair, Committee on Children
Legislative Office Building
300 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

June 11, 2014

Dear Sen. Bartolomeo and Rep. Urban,

As Ranking Member of the Committee on Children, I commend you on the jobs you do as co-chairs of this important panel.

I write to bring your attention to a recommendation in the Office of the Child Advocate’s June 3, 2014 Public Information Bulletin Regarding Child Fatality Review. That recommendation is as follows:

  • The legislature should hold an annual public hearing on child fatalities to review causes and prevention strategies and to determine resource allocation that will support children and families.

As you know, there have been several tragic deaths this year involving children who were under the care of the Department of Children and Families. The Office of the Child Advocate is currently finalizing an in-depth review of all 2013 deaths. Two of the children were homicide victims. Other causes of death among infants and toddlers were abuse, an auto crash, asphyxiation and unsafe sleeping conditions. As such, I would respectfully request that the Committee on Children schedule a public hearing to review that report when it is complete.

Also in the interests of transparency, I respectfully request that the Committee on Children schedule a public hearing as soon as possible to discuss the role of the Office of Child Advocate and DCF in complying with CGS §§46a-13l(b) and (c), which requires the State Child Fatality Review Panel to review the circumstances of the death of any child who has received services from a state department or agency addressing child welfare. 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. 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.

Thank you again for your diligence on the Committee on Children, and thank you for your consideration of my request for these public hearings.

Sincerely,

Art Linares
State Senator
33rd District