What a difference a year can make for the abused and neglected children that the Department of Children and Families removes from their homes.

When Joette Katz became the commissioner of DCF just over a year ago, one in seven children in state custody were being placed with other family members — one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Last week, she informed the legislature that her efforts to place more children with their family members has paid off. DCF now places children with relatives at the same rate as the national average, with one in four children remaining with their family.

DCF has been under federal court oversight for years for failing to provide adequate care for too many children. The federal court monitor in his most recent report card on the agency, noted that in 95 percent of the cases reviewed, the department did its due dilligence in searching for family members.

Even with these high marks, Katz told legislators she is moving forward with upgrading how her agengy, which has 4,700 children in its custody on any given day, is looking for relatives. Starting in July, the DCF employees will have new Lexus Nexus software, so “a greater pool of individuals [will] be accessed.”

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