Report finds fault with DCF for near-starvation of toddler - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Report finds fault with DCF for near-starvation of toddler

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(http://www.ct.gov/dcf) (http://www.ct.gov/dcf)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB/AP) -

Connecticut's Office of the Child Advocate is blaming "the utter collapse of all safeguards" for the near-starvation and abuse of a toddler who was under the care of the Department of Children and Families.

The child advocate in a 64-page investigative report released Tuesday says the child welfare agency placed the boy with relatives in Groton with a history of prior abuse and neglect allegations and a criminal past.

Various workers involved with the case told investigators they had been unaware of the foster parents' history.

At 13 months old, DCF workers placed in the Groton home even though the foster parents didn't complete proper training or licensing. 

The young boy was eventually removed from the relatives' home. At 19 months old, he was so undernourished that he had poor muscle tone and head control. The boy has since recovered.

In the report, DCF workers would visit, but only wrote three reports in a five-month period. The day after the boy was brought to the hospital and DCF was notified, 18 entries were entered by DCF workers. 

"DCF workers never picked up on it," state Sen. Len Fasano said. "And that's the failure of this agency and I think it goes right to leadership." 

DCF calls the case "unacceptable." Three workers were disciplined. A fourth retired.

"What happened to this baby boy is both troubling and unacceptable. Thankfully (the boy) has recovered. That does not, however, diminish that our work with him did not meet our standards. It is important to note that all staff involved with (the boy) have accepted full responsibility. At the conclusion of our human resources investigation, three employees were subject to appropriate disciplinary action. A fourth employee retired," Katz said in a statement issued on Tuesday. 

State Sen. Len Fasano has asked DCF Commissioner Joette Katz to step down before and said there has been children who have died or neglected under her leadership.

"I can't even imagine what this child went through. I can't even imagine," Fasano said. 

Fasano has called for Katz to step down for the third time. 

"More kids have lost their lives in DCF care under this commissioner than any other commissioner," Fasano said. 

The statement from Katz went on to say "the Department is taking all possible steps to ensure that the problems identified have been addressed, and we will continue to evaluate and adjust these actions to achieve our goal of safely maintaining children in care with kin whenever possible. In addition, the work with this family was transferred to other offices.

While I am disappointed by our work in this instance, I remain committed to the overall direction of keeping more children with their relatives and other kinship families. National research shows that outcomes are improved for children in kinship homes. For this reason, Department staff have worked hard to increase the use of kinship homes, and the percentage of Connecticut children in care who are living with relatives or kin is now above 40 percent – doubling since 2011.

Our progress as Connecticut’s child welfare agency has been repeatedly recognized nationally among child welfare experts. It is this progress that has resulted in the U.S. District Court approving an agreement that recognizes our good work, and sets a clear and deliberate path forward, allowing us to keenly focus on what remains to end over 25 years of federal oversight.  This agreement was reached because of the notable progress DCF has made in addressing the underlying concerns that led to the need for federal court oversight in 1991.  Children’s Rights, the non-profit law firm representing the class of plaintiffs in Juan F., partnered with DCF and the federal Court Monitor to develop this new exit plan in recognition of our progress.  This new plan is achievable, realistic, and sustainable once formal court oversight ends.  This significant milestone is a reflection of the support we have to continue in the positive direction we are moving, while recognizing that we have much work ahead of us.

Connecticut's increased use of kinship homes is widely seen as one of the key areas of improvement by the federal court, the Court Monitor and by others, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It is important to note too that here are more than 2,100 active kinship homes this year; of those, six have been substantiated for maltreatment -- 0.3 percent. That percentage is consistent with substantiation rates for children in core foster care families. While there is much we can learn from a particular case, a system as large and complex as a child welfare system cannot be judged accurately by one or even a handful of cases."

However, Fasano said he wants more action to be taken and said DCF failed this child. 

"I think DCF failed this child. I think that this building has failed this child and this administration has failed this child," Fasano said. "We are all responsible. The question is what are we going to do?"

The child is now two years old and has recovered.  

To read the report, click here.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.