DCF chief to publicly discuss responses to two critical reports

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz

Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz will come before state legislators Wednesday to answer questions in the wake of two reports that detail problems at the state’s juvenile jails.

It’s the first of three forums planned at the state Capitol complex to examine how adjudicated youth are treated at the state-run jails in Middletown.

On Wednesday, Katz will come before legislators on the Committee on Children.

Next week, Katz has been asked by Rep. Toni Walker, chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, and Ben Barnes, the governor’s secretary of policy and management, to present DCF’s plans for addressing the concerns that have been raised to members of the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee.

That committee — which includes officials from DCF, the Judicial Branch, the Office of the Child Advocate, Office of the Chief Public Defender, state legislators and other advocates — will meet Aug. 21 at the state Capitol complex.

In the first of the two recent reports, Robert Kinscherff, a national juvenile justice expert, credited the state the state wtih locking up fewer adjudicated youth but raised questions about the adequacy of mental health services provided for at-risk youths both at the DCF juvenile jails in Middletown and in the community. (Read that story here.)

Another investigation by the Office of the Child Advocate found that children at the DCF were being “unlawfully” restrained and put in solitary confinement, among other problems. (Read that story here.)

Those reports led Republican Senate leader Len Fasano to call for the Katz’s resignation and Democratic leaders to call for a public hearing. No date has been set yet for that hearing which will include legislators on the legislature’s Human Services, Appropriations and Children’s committees.

In response to the reports, DCF promised to make several changes — including banning face-down restraints and eliminating the use of restraints for non emergencies.

In announcing the special meeting, Walker and Barnes said DCF plans to submit an “action plan” describing how they intend to implement those changes.

Katz will also be on WNPR’s “Where We Live” this Thursday to discuss juvenile justice.

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