Federal court monitor: Foster children’s needs still unmet

DCF court monitor Raymond Mancuso

DCF monitor Raymond Mancuso, appointed by the U.S. District Court.

Foster children in Connecticut are still not receiving all the mental health services, child care and housing supports they need, partly because the programs are not available, a federal court monitor reported Wednesday.

The latest quarterly review of the care the Department of Children and Families provided a sampling of 53 foster children between July and December found that the children were not being referred for services, partly because the staff had “knowledge that certain services are not readily available.”

When those children were recommended for services, 24 of them did not get help because of wait lists or “provider issues.”

Nearly half of the children’s needs were not met — a 4½- year low — and a level of compliance “significantly below” the statewide goal.

“Connecticut’s well documented shortage in critical supportive services is undermining the major positive reforms this administration has made,” said Ira Lustbader, an attorney for Children’s Rights, one of the groups representing plaintiffs in the 1989 “Juan F.” class-action lawsuit that led to the federal oversight.

As he has in previous quarterly filings, court monitor Raymond Mancuso reported that services not readily available include: in-home services, domestic violence services, extended day treatment, substance abuse services, emergency mobile services, supportive housing vouchers, foster and adoptive care resources, and outpatient mental health services.

Foster children in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury had the highest rates of unmet needs, according to the sample of cases Mancuso reviewed.

As the DCF keeps more foster children at home with their families or foster families, advocates have complained that the state has not spent enough money to provide them with the supports they require.

For example, the court monitor found there was a wait list for a child to get into a Head Start early childcare program and for another family to receive a voucher that would prevent them from being homeless.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz issued a statement with the report that acknowledged the ongoing fiscal challenge her agency faces.

“The issuance of this Juan F. [monitor] report comes in the midst of a General Assembly session during which fiscal issues present themselves as particularly challenging,” Katz said. “While fortunately the state’s  economy is enjoying a recovery, the state budget faces deficits that are requiring continued belt tightening.” She pointed out that $60 million more has been invested in community programs than four years prior. An additional 100 social workers have also been hired.

“This is a necessity to do quality work with our most complex families,” she said.

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