The Department of Children and Families, sister state agencies, community partners, contracted providers, families with lived-expertise, and other stakeholders have collaborated for decades to meet a shared vision of “Partnering with communities and empowering families to raise resilient children who thrive.”
To meet that mission, Connecticut has evolved to have a strong and vibrant continuum of services — from prevention to therapeutic residential programs.
Fundamentally, we all believe children are best served in families, within their own communities and schools, surrounded by people familiar to them.
Public/private partnerships have worked diligently to enhance community and family supports. The results of these efforts have led to increasing the percentage of children in state custody residing in families to over 90% while reducing the percentage of children who require treatment in a congregate care setting to just 6% from 30% ten years ago.
This progress for our children can only be sustained with strong systems of support and mutual respect at all levels of intervention.
Situations do occur where a child’s clinical, behavioral and other therapeutic needs are unable to be safely maintained in a family setting resulting in a short-term therapeutic intervention in residential care.
The pandemic has exacerbated a mental health crisis. Corresponding emergency room visits for both adults and children are increasing. Hospital emergency departments are being overwhelmed with more children in acute crisis than they have the capacity to treat. Building up our systems of care to support youth from a prevention perspective is vital. We also must continue to support systems of care that meet these complex levels of need.
Connecticut is fortunate to have high quality, expert congregate care providers who support children in an array of residential programs. They are a vital piece in the solution continuum to the emerging children’s behavioral health crisis. “Our congregate care programs provide compassionate, therapeutic residential care to support those children, and their families, with the most significant needs,” stated Alyssa Goduti, President and CEO of Adelbrook Behavioral and Developmental Services.
These programs prevent children from going into hospitals, out-of-state treatment programs, and collaboratively work with the child’s family and other supports to reduce the length of stay.
Residential programs have life-changing impacts on children and families, providing a safe place for children to stabilize, grow, learn, and transition to a family home, foster care, or another level of care. These programs provide equitable supports to children and families from racially diverse backgrounds, as well as children with developmental disabilities, and as they heal from trauma. They are also part of the planning to help young people age into the next stage of their lives.
“Children are supported by caring, expert staff who are committed to partnering with families, schools, and other supporters to assure the well-being and future success of children they serve,” according to Lynn Bishop, Executive Director of NAFI CT Inc.
These programs are also a vital piece of the State of Connecticut’s Family First Prevention Services Plan. As Qualified Residential Treatment Providers, they provide short term, evidence-based, trauma-informed, family-engaging care. These programs will also work to build up an aftercare component when the child returns to their community.
The Department of Children and Families, along with our Connecticut congregate care providers, will continue working together as a vital part of the continuum of care and partner in meeting our shared mission to help raise resilient children who thrive.
Vannessa Dorantes is the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. Lynn Bishop is President of the Children’s League of CT and Executive Director of NAFI CT Inc. Alyssa Goduti is Vice-President of the Children’s League of CT and President and CEO of Adelbrook Behavioral and Developmental Services.