Op-ed: Dems all talk, no action on protecting children

July 10, 2018

Op-ed by State Senator Len Fasano, as it appeared in The Hour

The hypocrisy of Connecticut Democrat lawmakers is matched only by their insincerity. When it comes to voicing their opinions on matters that they can’t control, like federal policies, they are loud and vocal. But when it comes to similar issues in Connecticut where they can actually vote and make a difference, they profoundly fail to act. Instead they abandon their federal political stance to choose politics over people.

Last week, we saw a glaring example of this. At the same time Connecticut Democrats stood before the press decrying the federal government for child abuse, these same Democrats rejected an opportunity to actually do something about child abuse in Connecticut that has been happening for years under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration.

Democrats declined to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have established independent oversight of the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), an agency in which a shocking pattern of preventable and documented abuse, neglect and death of Connecticut children has occurred under the current administration. This bill would have begun to protect these children from potential abuses.

Instead of working with Republicans to override the veto, Democrats, who less than two months ago overwhelmingly voted for the bill, cowered to their political leader Gov. Malloy. The children they said they cared so much about when they talked about federal issues faded away here in Connecticut in favor of politics.

While a certain amount of tragedy is sadly expected within an agency such as DCF, the number of preventable incidents that have occurred as a result of DCF’s refusal to heed the advice of advocates is disturbing. There are the heartbreaking cases we have all heard about in the news: Matthew Tirado, Baby Dylan, London Sack, Ayden Baskay and Athena Angeles. There are also countless children whose names we may never know. There are the children who were abused and shackled under the Malloy administration at the state’s locked facilities. There are the 16 children ages 3 and under who died while under the watch of DCF in 2013, an unprecedented number. There is the transgender youth whose due process rights were violated by DCF. There are the children who were allowed to remain in homes with sex offenders, because being convicted of molesting a child was not an automatic disqualifier for placing a child in a household. And there are the thousands of children who represent more than half of the children in DCF’s care whose basic needs have not been met.

Refusing to override Gov. Malloy’s veto of the DCF oversight bill is about more than refusing to stand up to the governor. It is about conviction for what you believe in. While Democrat state lawmakers claim they want to help children in front of the cameras, when it came to a vote to do just that they folded. They applauded each other for writing a letter to the federal government asking for an end to family separations at the border, something that our Democrat Congressional representatives — not state representatives — actually have the responsibility and influence to accomplish. But here in Connecticut where they could make a real difference they allowed the system to continue to operate without any supervision. Their talk was tough, but they failed to act.

The abuse of children here in Connecticut is clearly disturbing. And yes, the images we have seen and the cries we have heard from our nation’s border are also heartbreaking and infuriating. Children should not be separated from their families, as has been said by many influential national Republicans and Democrats alike and reflected in proposals on both sides of the aisle in Congress to keep families together. But here in Connecticut, state lawmakers don’t have the ability to vote on these federal policies. However, we do have an obligation to address how vulnerable children are treated in our state every day — a responsibility Democrats continue to dodge.

Bringing Washington-style partisanship to Connecticut does not move the ball forward nationally or locally. It holds us back from reform, change and action. If Connecticut Democrats want to help vulnerable children, there is much they can do here at home if only they were less focused on rhetoric and more focused on those problems right in front of them.

Unfortunately, as a result of their political games, Connecticut children will have to wait another year to get the help they need.