It's up to the House of Representatives to decide whether to approve a revised agreement Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says will forge a new path toward ending decades of federal oversight of Connecticut's child welfare agency.
The Senate on Wednesday rejected the deal on a bipartisan 25-8 vote. It now awaits action in the House.
The settlement must be rejected by three-fifths of each chamber or else it is deemed approved. A legislative committee previously issued an "unfavorable recommendation."
Lawmakers have voiced various concerns with the deal, which sets a minimum budget for the Department of Children and Families that the legislature cannot change. Sen. Paul Formica called for a new plan that doesn't tie the legislature's hands.
It's unclear what might happen next if the agreement is defeated.
In a statement on Wednesday, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said "I am deeply disappointed by today’s outcome, not only as Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, not only for the employees of the department who have worked tirelessly and made so much progress in improving our services—but for the Connecticut children and families we serve.
In rejecting a modified judgment in the Juan F. Consent Decree, first ordered in 1991, the Connecticut General Assembly agreed to allow federal court oversight over the Department of Children and Families to continue indefinitely, thereby potentially incurring what could amount to millions of dollars for continued federal monitoring, litigation costs associated with noncompliance and further federal relief.
The modified judgment supported by the advocacy community, private service providers and others could have represented a proud moment for Connecticut and most significantly reflects the improvements made for our children and families.
Many members of the General Assembly expressed reservations about committing to a minimum funding level for the agency. They believed that agreeing to a set funding level would tie their hands. Unfortunately, their rejection of this agreement, which was arrived at through intense negotiations with the plaintiffs and federal authorities, will in the end be what results in greater restrictions on the State’s ability to set policy and funding levels. We fear that the federal court will interpret the State’s rejection of the revised exit plan as a lack of will to meet the requirements of exiting federal oversight.
I deeply regret that the General Assembly did not recognize this opportunity to ultimately reduce expenditures, release the state from 25 plus years of federal oversight, and better direct the necessary funding to the children and families we serve."
In a statement, Gov. Dannel Malloy said “Today the General Assembly let politics stand in the way of progress for our most vulnerable children and families. This plan was supported by the plaintiffs, the federal court monitor, advocates, national experts, and the Attorney General’s Office, and yet it was not enough for the legislators who cast votes against the measure. They have now voted to keep Connecticut under federal oversight, even though a federal court has acknowledged the state’s significant improvements.
We may not have another opportunity in the near future to exit federal oversight and it will do us well to remember this fact as we suffer the consequences of this embarrassing inaction. I commend the 44 legislators, and especially Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, who voted to approve this measure that would ultimately allow the state to resume its sovereign responsibility for the welfare of its children.”
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said, “The Department of Children and Families has made important changes to better serve our young people and their families. The vote today is disappointing. We missed the opportunity to backstop that progress and to regain full control of a key state agency.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.