Fasano Concerned about Reappointment of DCF Commissioner Katz [CT Mirror]

December 26, 2014

CT Mirror

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that he plans to nominate Joette Katz to remain the leader of the Department of Children and Families — the state agency that has 4,000 abused and neglected children in its care on any given day.

“She has shown she has the experience to lead a team of dedicated staff who strive to ensure that Connecticut’s children and families are healthy, safe, smart and strong,” Malloy said in an press release. “Commissioner Katz and her team have made a number of changes that are showing results, and I look forward to having her on board to continue this critical work.”

Katz’s appointment will need to be approved by the legislature, and her nomination is certain to face resistance.

I know I am not alone among both Democrat and Republican legislators when I say I have concerns about this reappointment. DCF has had significant problems under Commissioner Katz’s leadership, and I believe Commissioner Katz has been pushing DCF in the wrong direction,” said Incoming Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.

Katz took over as the leader of the troubled agency in January 2011, estimating it would take her a year to get it out from federal court oversight. Nearly four years later, the court monitor still regularly reports a long list of problems the agency faces to get children in their custody the services they need.
It’s not for lack of effort.

One of the tenet’s of Katz’s leadership has been keeping more families together. When Katz took office in January 2011, a national advocacy group reported that Connecticut ranked well above the national average in removing children from their homes, and it ranked near the bottom in terms of placing those children with other relatives.

Since then, there are 764 fewer children in state custody after being removed from their homes — a 16 percent reduction. And when children are removed, the chance they will be placed with a family member is much higher.

She has also drastically reduced the state’s use of costly group homes, both in- and out-of-state. In January 2011, 362 children lived out-of-state. Today, 14 children do.

Katz has done this by keeping more children with their families despite some potential warning signs, a risk she urged her staff to take.

While praise from lawmakers is not hard to find, the commissioner who left a secure job on the Connecticut Supreme Court at age 57 for the rough-and-tumble of running an agency that draws more and harsher public scrutiny than any other, is still falling short, several advocates say.

Katz’s agency has come under fire in recent months for the living conditions of a transgender youth in her custody, a 10-year high, in the number of boys living at the state’s juvenile jail, and the opening of a new jail to house girls. The state’s child advocate also raised concerns about the agency’s use of restraints and the number of children who have died after having had some contact with the agency.
Advocates and some legislators have also expressed concern over the funding cuts DCF has had to absorb — $195 million over the last six years, a 20 percent cut.

“It has been a unique privilege to work with our children, our families, our staff and our stakeholders in a remarkable effort to support and strengthen families to do their best in raising children,” Katz said. “To be given the opportunity to continue to serve Connecticut as we continue our reforms in partnership with our dedicated staff is a tremendous honor.”

Read a full profile on the work Katz has completed here.

Katz was the last commissioner whose second-term status was not publicly known. See below for a full rundown of which top administration officials are staying, and who is departing.