Downplaying DCF commissioner’s failures won’t help vulnerable children

There will always be unavoidable tragedies within the state’s Department of Children & Families, yet a recent column in the Day downplayed how Commissioner Joette Katz’s actions have put children in harm’s way. 

For years she ignored the data, warnings and recommendations from child advocates, resulting in the agency repeating mistakes that led to abuse, neglect and death of far too many children. 

Last year, a federal audit found DCF failed to protect children from abuse and neglect in nearly half its cases. Multiple reports have shown a distinct decline in agency performance. 

Yet she continues to fight oversight. 

Gov. Malloy recently vetoed legislation that would have established an independent DCF oversight council. Democrats refused to challenge the veto, despite supporting the measure weeks before. 

Last year, Commissioner Katz tried to force through a plan her own counsel negotiated, without consulting the Attorney General’s office, to remove court oversight of the agency, establish an unprecedented court order controlling all agency funds, and eliminate the legislature’s ability to implement reforms. A group of bipartisan lawmakers opposed this plan. The Attorney General negotiated a new agreement that smoothed a path to exit through agency improvements. 

Connecticut’s children clearly deserve better. The first step to improvement is being honest about how and why the agency has failed the most vulnerable. The next step is finding a leader that will put people before politics and ego. 

Len Fasano

The writer serves as Senate Republican President Pro Tempore. He represents the 34th Senate District, including Durham, East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford.

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