JI Letter: Fasano responds on DCF cuts

December 8, 2014

Journal Inquirer
Gov. Dannel Malloy is planning to cut funding from one of the most vital and struggling state agencies — the Department of Children and Families. These cuts are completely unacceptable, as they take important resources away from Connecticut’s children and families most in need.

State Sen. Beth Bye has expressed her own concerns about these cuts, noting specific anxiety about the $6 million cut for board and care for children under DCF care. But at the same time she has called my criticism of DCF cuts “disingenuous,” as reported by the Journal Inquirer. Bye also inaccurately stated that Republicans proposed the same cuts to DCF six months ago. This is untrue. I would like to set the record straight.

Budget adjustments proposed by Republicans in April did include adjustments to DCF’s budget, but these were adjustments first recommended by both the governor and the Appropriations Committee. Therefore, these cuts were Democrat cuts that Republicans agreed to place in our budget adjustment. These were not cuts we thought up and proposed ourselves. Rather, they were cuts we accepted from Bye, who serves as chair of the Appropriations Committee.

The governor’s newly proposed cuts would be on top of the Democrat cuts already made and would cause significant damage to DCF, an agency struggling with substantial issues.

I do not support further cuts, which is why I spoke out against the governor’s plan to cut an additional $9.2 million from the agency.

Like Bye, my concerns about underfunding DCF are genuine. DCF caseworkers are overworked and stretched thin. Poor leadership over the past few years has led to a regression in the agency’s quality of care and protective services. Now is not the time to be cutting funding further.

The Office of Policy and Management has tried to defend these cuts, saying the state is sending less children to group homes, therefore there is less of a need for residential funds. This argument is disturbing because the cuts are not only hitting residential care programs, they are also slamming community programs needed to help children who will be forced out of group homes that are closing.

Not only are children being diverted from residential facilities, but the programs that are supposed to help them in place of group homes are underfunded. Cuts of over $415,000 to community based prevention programs, over $642,000 to juvenile justice outreach services, and over $94,000 to family violence outreach and counseling will further hurt children removed from group homes.

The issues DCF is facing should concern us all. I agree with Bye’s concerns. But instead of dismissing each other, Republicans and Democrats should be working together to find a way to balance our budget without cutting from those most in need.