Senate Passes Bill Responding to Safety Needs of Children with Disabilities

May 4, 2018

Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) applauded the State Senate’s unanimous passage of a bill late last night that aims to support safer and better outcomes for children with disabilities including those who are suspected or documented victims of abuse and neglect.

Senate Bill 312 An Act Concerning the Needs of Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities was recommended by the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) in response to an investigation released in December 2017 that examined the tragic and avoidable death of 17 year old Matthew Tirado. The bill will require the State Department of Children and Families (DCF) to develop a plan to respond to the special safety needs of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Tirado, who was an autistic and intellectually disabled child, died from prolonged child abuse and starvation. He was long known to DCF as well as the education and judicial systems and yet suffered and died alone and unprotected. OCA’s investigation found that DCF does not have specific training and guidance for staff regarding risk assessment, investigation and follow up for child abuse and neglect cases that involve children with developmental or other complex disabilities.

“Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect,” said Sen. Fasano. “They are uniquely dependent on those around them and often lack the communication and other skills necessary to advocate on their own behalf. DCF failed to recognize that Matthew’s disabilities increased his risk of abuse and required a heightened agency response. It is imperative that DCF, as well as the other state and local agencies that touch the lives of disabled and at risk children, develop protocols and policies that recognize and respond to the specific needs of disabled children.”

SB 312 requires the DCF Commissioner to collaborate with the Commissioners of Early Childhood, Developmental Services, and Social Services to develop specific investigation, assessment and case planning tools that respond to the child safety needs of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.