DCF seeks end to court oversight, one day after accusation of mismanagement

The state filed a motion today asking a federal judge to end court oversight of the Department of Children and Families, citing dramatic progress protecting children since the case was filed 20 years ago.

The move comes one day after a child-advocacy group notified the state that DCF is so badly managed that it is in contempt of previous court orders and that the state should consider the wholesale removal of the agency’s management.

A DCF spokesman, Gary Kleeblatt, said lawyers for the state have been working on the court motion “for weeks, if not months.”

A spokesman for the advocacy group, Children’s Rights, said the agency’s decision to file the motion is evidence of its incompetence.

“I guess the administration is saying if you fail long enough it should be excused,” said Ira Lustbader, the associate director of Children’s Rights.

How to reconcile two disparate views of DCF?

In a statement issued by DCF, Gov. M. Jodi Rell ignored the call for new management and instead said the agency has made dramatic progress and should be free of court oversight.

“Working together, we have utterly transformed the way the state cares for children and families in crisis,” Rell said. “These are no cosmetic fixes – they are changes that run through the very bedrock of the agency.”

The state says it has tripled funding  for DCF and accomplished a two-thirds reduction in social-worker caseloads and a 31 percent decrease in children in state care.

“We have amply demonstrated Connecticut’s lasting commitment to improved training, care and services. It is now time to end the costly oversight process and return management of DCF to the state,” Rell said.

Lustbader said the agency has made progress, just not nearly enough. The court monitor recently found the agency failing more than half the time to meet the basic needs of children under its care.