DCF Commissioner Joette Katz CTMirror File Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that he plans to nominate Joette Katz to remain the leader of the Department of Children and Families — the state agency that has 4,000 abused and neglected children in its care on any given day.

“She has shown she has the experience to lead a team of dedicated staff who strive to ensure that Connecticut’s children and families are healthy, safe, smart and strong,” Malloy said in an press release. “Commissioner Katz and her team have made a number of changes that are showing results, and I look forward to having her on board to continue this critical work.”

Katz’s appointment will need to be approved by the legislature, and her nomination is certain to face resistance.

I know I am not alone among both Democrat and Republican legislators when I say I have concerns about this reappointment. DCF has had significant problems under Commissioner Katz’s leadership, and I believe Commissioner Katz has been pushing DCF in the wrong direction,” said Incoming Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven.

Katz tells Malloy and commissioners her plans for the agency in 2011
Katz tells Malloy and commissioners her plans for the agency in 2011 CT Mirror File Photo

Katz took over as the leader of the troubled agency in January 2011, estimating it would take her a year to get it out from federal court oversight. Nearly four years later, the court monitor still regularly reports a long list of problems the agency faces to get children in their custody the services they need.

It’s not for lack of effort.

One of the tenet’s of Katz’s leadership has been keeping more families together. When Katz took office in January 2011, a national advocacy group reported that Connecticut ranked well above the national average in removing children from their homes, and it ranked near the bottom in terms of placing those children with other relatives.

Since then, there are 764 fewer children in state custody after being removed from their homes — a 16 percent reduction. And when children are removed, the chance they will be placed with a family member is much higher.

She has also drastically reduced the state’s use of costly group homes, both in- and out-of-state. In January 2011, 362 children lived out-of-state. Today, 14 children do.

Katz has done this by keeping more children with their families despite some potential warning signs, a risk she urged her staff to take.

While praise from lawmakers is not hard to find, the commissioner who left a secure job on the Connecticut Supreme Court at age 57 for the rough-and-tumble of running an agency that draws more and harsher public scrutiny than any other, is still falling short, several advocates say.

Katz’s agency has come under fire in recent months for the living conditions of a transgender youth in her custody, a 10-year high, in the number of boys living at the state’s juvenile jail, and the opening of a new jail to house girls. The state’s child advocate also raised concerns about the agency’s use of restraints and the number of children who have died after having had some contact with the agency.

Advocates and some legislators have also expressed concern over the funding cuts DCF has had to absorb — $195 million over the last six years, a 20 percent cut.

“It has been a unique privilege to work with our children, our families, our staff and our stakeholders in a remarkable effort to support and strengthen families to do their best in raising children,” Katz said. “To be given the opportunity to continue to serve Connecticut as we continue our reforms in partnership with our dedicated staff is a tremendous honor.”

Read a full profile on the work Katz has completed here.

Katz was the last commissioner whose second-term status was not publicly known. See below for a full rundown of which top administration officials are staying, and who is departing.

The Malloy 2.0 Scorecard
Job Name Staying Departing Unknown
Chief of staff Mark Ojakian *
OPM Ben Barnes *
Counsel Luke Bronin *
Communication Director Andrew Doba *
Administrative Services Donald DeFronzo *
Aging Margaret Gerundo-Murkette Interim
Agriculture Steven Reviczy *
Banking Howard F. Pitkin  *
Children & Families Joette Katz *
Consumer Protection William M. Rubenstein *
Correction Scott Semple Interim
Developmental Services Terrence W. Macy  *
Early Childhood Myra Jones-Taylor *
Economic Development Catherine H. Smith *
Education Stefan Pryor *
Emergency Services Dora B. Schriro  *
Housing Evonne Klein *
Military Thaddeus J. Martin *
Energy & Environment Robert J. Klee *
Insurance Thomas Leonardi *
Labor Sharon M. Palmer *
Mental Health & Addiction Patricia Rehmer *
Motor Vehicles Melody Currey  Moving
Public Health Jewel Mullen *
Rehabilitation Services Amy Porter *
Revenue Services Kevin Sullivan *
Social Services Roderick L. Bremby *
Transportation James P. Redeker *
Veterans’ Affairs Joseph Perkins Interim

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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