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Fasano Calls For Katz’s Resignation

by | Jul 23, 2015 2:30pm
() Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Child Welfare, Legal, Public Health, Public Safety, State Capitol, Middletown, Mental Health Care

Hugh McQuaid photo

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz

Citing recent reports highlighting problems at DCF’s two locked facilities, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano is calling on Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz to resign.

“Commissioner Katz’s autocratic leadership and misplaced priorities have undermined the effectiveness of her agency, put children at risk, and eroded public trust,” Fasano said. “Recent reports, including the Child Advocate’s report released yesterday, highlight the disturbing reality of persistent issues within DCF including the abuse of children at DCF’s locked facilities, the agency’s failure to investigate many of these cases, and a continuous struggle to embrace transparency.”

Katz was one of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first appointments. Malloy plucked Katz from the Supreme Court bench and said her work experience — first as a public defender and then as a judge — leaves her well-prepared to lead a bureaucracy that has “too often failed our children.”

DCF’s chronic problems have bedeviled governors for decades.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Malloy defended his decision earlier this year to renominate Katz to continue as DCF commissioner.

Mark Bergman, Malloy’s director of communications, said Katz has one of the “toughest jobs in the state” and has been taking the criticism of her department very seriously.

He said Fasano’s opposition to Katz is a “petty political attack,” and added that Fasano is “not being serious about a very challenging, very difficult job.”

Fixing the problems at the $821.4 million agency are difficult and Katz has made progress, he said.

Since Katz took over the department there has been a 16 percent reduction in kids under the care of DCF and a 58 percent reduction of kids in group homes and institutional settings, Bergman said.

The administration has the “utmost confidence the commissioner will work to address the problems outlined in the report,” he added.

A spokesman for the agency said it is “vigorously responding” to issues raised by the Child Advocate’s report, which confirms concerns raised by a report from a national expert released last week.

“We already have started work with staff at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and the Pueblo Girls Unit on improving clinical treatment, reducing restraint and seclusion, and enhancing youth safety. Among the changes we are beginning to implement include: expanding clinical coverage to second shift; requiring clinical counseling for each seclusion; banning prone restraints and phasing out mechanical restraints; and asking youth to participate in developing crisis management plans to avoid restraints and seclusion,” Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman DCF, said.

Aside from the issues at the two locked facilities for boys and girls in Middletown, which were detailed in a report following an 18-month investigation by the state Child Advocate’s office, Fasano said Katz is not meeting the benchmarks set forth by a federal court monitor.

The federal court monitor’s report showed that DCF has failed to meet seven of 22 benchmarks, including those that address the timely development of case plans and the department’s ability to meet children’s needs for medical and mental health services. The federal monitor attributed some of that poor performance to excessive workloads following a hiring freeze last year and the subsequent arrival of 150 new employees.

The report also acknowledged that the recently signed state budget does not fully fund the programs necessary to address department deficiencies and cited $1.8 million in annualized rescissions that will further affect its ability to operate effectively.

“The Commissioner’s outright rejection of past criticism and proposed solutions is a disturbing abuse of power,” Fasano said. “Her opposition to efforts to increase transparency has hindered significant needed reforms. These recent reports are not the first we are hearing about mistreatment and a failure of the system under Commissioner Katz.”

Fasano also asked Attorney General George Jepsen to look into the allegations in the Child Advocate’s report regarding the DCF whistleblowers.

The Child Advocate’s report says many of the whistleblower calls to the DCF hotline about abuse or neglect within the two locked facilities were never accepted by DCF for further investigation, and records of the calls were not maintained after 60 days.

From the report: “Multiple facility staff spoke with OCA confidentially and raised concerns that certain adults are permitted to verbally abuse or threaten youth: ‘I’ll knock your jaw out.’ ‘I’ll beat your ass.’ ‘You are a piece of shit.’ A Parole Officer called in an allegation that his adolescent client was being bullied by certain facility staff, that he was called ‘retard,’ and ‘Forrest Gump.’ The allegation was accepted by DCF for investigation but was not substantiated.”

Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokesman for Jepsen, said they are reviewing Fasano’s letter and will respond formally at the appropriate time.

“Generally speaking, however, the Office of the Attorney General does not have general authority to investigate or oversee the operations of DCF or any other state agency. Under Connecticut’s whistleblower laws, complaints of mismanagement in state agencies are investigated in the first instance by the state Auditors of Public Accounts,” Falkowski said.

CTNJ file photo Fasano also wrote to the co-chairs of the legislature’s Children’s Committee.

Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, said that the job of DCF commissioner is the “toughest in state government.” She said it’s like trying to turn a cruise ship with a canoe panel.

Urban said she believes Katz recognizes there are problems “and she is dealing with them.”

“The way to solve the issue is not to have Joette Katz leave,” Urban said.

Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, the other co-chair of the Children’s Committee, said getting rid of Katz is not the answer to the problem. She said providing DCF with more support is a much better answer.

“She’s dealing with employees who have been there for a very long time, who have been set in their ways,” Bartolomeo said.

However, Bartolomeo said without the resources money for employee training isn’t available. She said the federal court monitor warned them they wouldn’t meet their benchmarks if they didn’t have the funding for certain programs.

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Comments

(8) Archived Comments

posted by: SocialButterfly | July 23, 2015  6:07pm

Good suggestion by Len Fasano.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | July 23, 2015  8:34pm

A failing Democrat has not fallen on their sword since LBJ 50 years ago.

Modern Democrats who fail now fail upwards.

Just watch how spectacularly Malloy fails upwardd.

posted by: dano860 | July 23, 2015  9:49pm

Our neighbors to the north in Massachusetts have a better system than Connecticut when it comes to incarceration of children.
They have a private firm, Y.O.U. Inc. cares for the least at risk. The Health and Human Services division handles the incarceration of children. They also utilize a national program called Juvenile Detention Alternative Intervention (JDAI) that identifies the needs of individuals.
It would appear as though Connecticut should take a look around at what appears to be working.
DCF needs a shake up and changing their model may even prove to be a cost saving move. Separation of the incarcerated children from the ones needing social intervention might be a good start.
They can’t keep doing what they have been doing and expect different results.
Ms. Katz may have chosen to take on more than she can handle. This is one position that I think the leader needs some background in for qualification.

posted by: art vandelay | July 24, 2015  3:26am

art vandelay

It’s not an easy job.  I know I wouldn’t want it.  These issues have been going on for decades.  This is not a Democrat/Republican problem but a bureaucratic.  Part of it lies in the jobs themselves in regards to employee burn out and frustration.  I’ve been told that special ed teachers have the highest turnover rate in the education system.  I’m sure it happens at DCF.  I wish anyone the best in trying to fix this one.

posted by: Barry | July 24, 2015  8:26pm

While we have seen much progress in many areas,the core issues and problems that this article and other legislators have commented on have been occuring through the last 4 commissioners. It is shocking to hear comments about the tenure of staff and how they are set in their ways when that issue has been identified for the last 20 years. The problem is that too many people in leadership and elected office have very short memories. History will show that these problems have existed when the state coffers were full,,,under Democratic & Republican leadership. DCF is a war zone…....words and accusations are a poor excuse for action. The Consent Decree set down a complex and strategic plan to assure the safety of children under the states care. Its time for the Governor,DCF leadership and legislators to focus less on how to get out from under the court order, which is no more than a political and budgetary strategy that fails to make the consent decree a driving force in DCF’s mission.
This will take a full understanding of some very complex and systemic issues that continue to cause the state to fail in caring for its children.
Barry Kasdan

posted by: Fisherman | July 26, 2015  8:21pm

Hey, you Monday morning Quarterbacks… lay-off Ms. Katz.

NOBODY wants this job, and EVERYBODY knows it.

posted by: SocialButterfly | July 27, 2015  10:11am

@Fisherman:  I hope SOMEONE wants Dannel Malloy’s job that is not a member of his Democratic bankruptcy political-think-tank.”

posted by: Politijoe | July 28, 2015  5:17am

Politijoe

This is simply more grandstanding from a political opportunist. Unfortunately, Len Fasano isn’t really interested in addressing the issues of child welfare, what he is interested in however is political theater that cast himself as the hero who takes pot shots at a big easy target. In spite of the report stating the recently signed state budget does not fully fund the programs necessary to address department deficiencies and further cited $1.8 million in annualized rescissions that will further affect its ability to operate effectively Fasno ignores the critical issue of proper funding. His priorities are upside down which highlights the need to prove his own relevancy in the form of political theater even at the expense of child welfare.