Sen. Fasano Renews Call for Commissioner Katz to Resign in Light of New Report by the Child Advocate

December 22, 2015

HartfordSenate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) is renewing calls for Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Joette Katz to resign in light of new findings released by the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) regarding system failures surrounding the death of Londyn S. The 2-year-old girl died on October 19, 2014 as a result of homicide due to Suboxone toxicity, a drug used to treat adults addicted to opioids. The State Child Fatality Review Panel instructed the OCA to investigate Londyn’s death as the child’s family was involved with DCF. The report on her death released by the OCA today found that DCF:

1. Failed to adequately assess the risk of children in Londyn’s home.
2. Did not open a child protective services investigation following a September 2014 call from police regarding possible physical abuse of Londyn and her baby brother.
3. Inappropriately assigned Londyn’s family to the FAR track (a lower risk categorization) on two occasions.
4. Did not provide an adequate community service plan for the family’s serious needs.
5. Did not receive complete information from community providers.
6. Lacked the needed quality assurance framework to support effective assessment and case planning.

“The state has culpability in Londyn’s death as well as many others,” said Senator Fasano. “These unnecessary child deaths are a direct result of the misguided and dangerous policies implemented by Commissioner Katz. Her stubborn insistence on keeping kids in unsafe homes in order to show fewer out of home placements, her promotion of a ‘low risk’ diversion program which keeps kids off DCF rolls but leaves them unprotected, and her failure to implement sufficient risk assessment and quality assurance programs, which advocates have been crying for, are resulting in serious harm and even death for too many Connecticut children.

“The leadership of Commissioner Katz has left the public with little faith in the ability of DCF to appropriately protect and support children under the agency’s care. The unsettling report released today is sadly yet another example of why DCF needs serious reform, and I believe, a leader who is open to change, transparency and transformation.

“While I applaud efforts that are being taken by DCF to improve oversight, they do not go far enough. From what I’ve witnessed over the past year, including Commissioner Katz rejecting proposed legislation that would have addressed many issues highlighted in this report, I have serious concerns that Commissioner Katz is not the appropriate individual to reform this state agency. In 2014 the Child Advocate reported an ‘unprecedented’ number of child homicides involving children who should have been protected by DCF. I know DCF employees are working extremely hard to protect the children they work with, but without the proper management and procedures in place, missteps do happen. That’s a reflection of leadership. It’s something that has to change,” said Fasano.

During the 2015 legislative session, Sen. Fasano proposed the following legislation in an attempt to strengthen DCF’s child fatality review procedures and take steps to assess and improve the system for the most at risk children. These bills, along with multiple other DCF reform ideas proposed by Sen. Fasano, were rejected by Commissioner Joette Katz.

  • S.B. No. 310 An Act Strengthening Child Fatality Review Procedures: This bill would have required an independent review of fatalities involving children with Department of Children and Families involvement, promoted a more transparent review process and ensured public discussion of findings and recommendations. Note: a portion of this concept was included in another public act.
  • S.B. No. 308 An Act Concerning an Independent Review of the Department of Children & Families: This bill would have required DCF to retain an outside independent agency to review the department’s child protection policies and procedures and submit a report on findings to the state’s committees on Judiciary, Human Services and Children. The committees would hold a public hearing on the report and the department would be required to submit a plan to implement recommended changes.
  • S.B. No. 301 An Act Concerning Transparency within the Department of Children & Families: This bill would have increased transparency and accountability for Department of Children and Families operations by increasing public access to the department’s records.