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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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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