Child Protection Agencies on the Brink: Calls for Resignation, Evidence of Abuse in Conn.; 7-Year Old in Coma After DCF Visit in Mass.

The most maligned and failed state agencies in both Connecticut and Massachusetts are back in the headlines again. In Connecticut, the top elected Republican in the state is calling for the resignation of the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) on the heels of a damning report of abuses at its locked facilities. In Massachusetts, it’s been revealed that a DCF social worker visited the home of a seven-year-old boy two weeks before he fell into a coma from apparent starvation.

Connecticut Child Advocate Sarah Eagan released a report this week that detailed instances of abuse at the state’s locked juvenile facilities. Reporter Christine Stuart was among a small number of reporters that viewed video footage on which the report was partially based. See Stuart’s report here.

Connecticut Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano says DCF Commissioner Joette Katz must go. “Commissioner Katz’s autocratic leadership and misplaced priorities have undermined the effectiveness of her agency, put children at risk and eroded public trust. 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,” Fasano said.

Conn. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz.
Conn. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz.

“The Commissioner’s outright rejection of past criticism and proposed solutions is a disturbing abuse of power. 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 said.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office is defending Katz. Spokesman Michael Bergman tried to make the issue about Fasano personally. “This is what Len Fasano does,” Bergman told the Hartford Courant. “He waits for a serious report to come out then fires off an ill-informed, misguided attack without any serious plan to address the issue at hand. Here are the facts that Len leaves out. Under Commissioner Katz’s leadership, DCF has made real progress. Today, there are 15.8 percent fewer children under DCF care, 58 percent fewer children in a group home or institutional setting and CTJS [Connecticut Juvenile Training School] has never had fewer children in that facility than right now.”

Bergman continued, “The problems outlined in Ms. Eagan’s report are serious, while the motivations behind Len’s latest missive are not. DCF is working in a collaborative fashion to address those problems. We wish Len would be as serious about working to protect the children of Connecticut as he is about grabbing headlines.”

A case in Massachusetts is outraging children’s advocates. The Mass. DCF is under fire for its handling—or lack thereof—in a case involving a seven-year-old boy in the town of Hardwick. The youngster was admitted to the hospital earlier this month and fell into a coma. The apparent cause was starvation and dehydration.

Further inquiries produced evidence that a DCF social worker visited the boy’s home just two weeks before he went into the hospital.

The Boston Globe reports, “The boy was taken to the hospital July 14 with life-threatening injuries that included bruises to his face, and burns on his knees and hands from frequent exposure to bleach. He weighed just 38 pounds.

“His father, Randall E. Lints was arrested Tuesday on assault and endangerment charges, and was ordered held without bail. Investigators found that Lints rarely let his son out of his sight and kept him in his room for days at a time. He exacted strict discipline and forced him to continuously wash the floors, police said.”

The investigation in the case is continuing.