State Sen. Len Fasano Proposes Bills to Reform DCF; Agency Says They’re Unnecessary [WNPR]

February 6, 2015

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Children’s Committee held a public hearing on Thursday to hear testimony on a dozen bills.

Almost half were proposed by Republican Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, a vocal critic of the state Department of Children and Families. His bills call for several reforms of DCF.

Fasano proposed having an independent ombudsman handle complaints and grievances, transferring the authority of DCF to investigate all child deaths to the Office of Child Advocate, and calling for a quality assurance program for all of DCF’s programs and facilities.

Fasano said he proposed the bills after hearing concerns from constituents and others including the impact of DCF closing more group homes in the last couple of years.

“On a number of meetings, I’ve talked to parents, kids, DCF workers to try to understand the magnitude of the problem that was happening; that’s how I got involved in this,” Fasano said. “You know, when group homes are closed with three days’ notice, those kids end up on the streets. There’s a parent that hasn’t seen their child since they left the group home.”

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz also testified. The agency submitted 20 pages of testimony saying many of the proposed bills are unnecessary.

Katz was also asked to react to the multiple bills proposed by Fasano.

“Two years ago, we were notified by a group provider to come and get your kids, we’re closing next week,” Katz said. “I went to federal court, and got a receiver to keep them in business, and continue to fund them for an extra three months so we could safely transition those children. In fact, I have a meeting with [Fasano] next week, and the first question I’ll ask him is: what group home is he talking about, and where is he getting his information? So it’s very hard for me to embrace recommendations when I think they’re based on a faulty foundation.”

Child Advocate Sarah Eagan is supportive of the many proposals. In her testimony, Eagan highlighted two of the bills. Calling for an independent ombudsman and ensuring quality assurance and transparency for programs at the state’s juvenile facilities were also recommendations of the Connecticut Juvenile Training School Advisory Board.