Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Legislature Frustrated with DCF

Troubled Agency Draws Fire

The Department of Children and Families has been on the rocks for years. The complaints are familiar: social workers stretched too thin, abuse going unnoticed, corruption within the department, expensive programs that don't work, terrible planning and so on. Now lawmakers, faced with the prospect of sending yet more money DCF's way to close and replace the failed Juvenile Training School in Middletown, are starting to show their frustration:

"You have been a drain and a bloodsucker on the budget," state Rep. Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey, D-Hartford, told DCF's leadership.
"If I had what it cost for four of your kids, we could have funded summer youth employment programs throughout the state and we could have helped thousands of kids," [Kirkley-Bey] said.
"We've already spent $50 million, and now they're asking us to spend another $50 million," said state Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven. "We're just spending money on top of money without doing anything that is really impacting the kids."
"I have not been persuaded this will work," [State Sen. Mary Ann] Handley said of the training school plan. "I'm concerned about us going blindly into another program and making the same mistakes all over again."
"I agree with you that the [training school] is not user-friendly for the population you are dealing with," [State Rep. DebraLee] Hovey said. "But we're also dealing with huge financial issues in Connecticut and people don't understand how this debacle occurred. There are a lot of us sitting back here saying there are things that make you go, `Hmmmm.'" (Poitras)

It's hard to blame them. DCF always seems just on the brink of either substantial reform or absolute disaster. It has thankfully avoided the latter, but just as little progress has been made toward the former. Social workers are by and large excellent, generous people. But the agency they work for has consistently failed them, time and again.

It's wise of the legislature to really consider any plans for either renovating or replacing the training school very carefully before proceeding. While they're at it, they may want to consider renovating or replacing DCF, as well.

Poitras, Colin. "Rell Plan Draws Doubt." Hartford Courant 3 August, 2005.


Aldon Hynes said...

We’ve been talking a little bit about juvenile justice issues over on the DeStefano Blog. A key point is that “Reading Gov. Rell's statement concerning CJTS, one does not get a sense of a comprehensive vision to improve the lives of troubled Connecticut children”.

I must admit, I don’t know the answers on how best to fix problems at DCF myself and I haven’t had a chance to discuss DCF with Mayor DeStefano. However, I have been trying to educate myself on this topic. I’ve spent a little time communicating with Abby Anderson, who is Senior Policy Associate at the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance. I would encourage people to read their website and share thoughts about how we can best address problems with DCT.

Mayor DeStefano’s mayoral re-election campaign slogan is “working together”. I believe that by working together, as concerned citizens online, together with groups like CTJJA and a great candidate like Mayor DeStefano, we can break the cycle of juvenile justice policies.

Aldon Hynes said...

Note: For some reason the first time I tried to post my comment it looked good in preview mode, but when I posted it, it was all messed up, so I deleted the improperly formatted version and resubmitted it. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Genghis Conn said...


I'm not sure what will fix DCF, either. Can we find examples of states where departments like DCF function well?

Audrey said...

Hi, this is Audrey Blondin, candidate for SOTS '06.
I'd like to respond to the comment made in the Open Forum section on Monday regarding "is he like Blondin & is going to drop 100,000 of his own money into the pot?"
Unfortunately, I can't think of a better reason for campaign finance reform than that comment. If you compare the financial reports of the other candidates, you will see that in order for me to be competitive, I have no choice coming from local government but to use my own money until everyone understands that I am a serious, committed candidate. I knew this going into this race & my 25 plus years of political experience have proven me correct. As a local selectman, I did not raise money for my 5 races from pacs, lobbyists, developers & other special interest groups & organizations. I raised money in small amounts from individuals & that's what I'm doing now in my SOTS race. I believe that ultimately we will be successful because our donations are coming from those who support me because of who I am, including my many years of experience from the local to the national political level, my work as a bankruptcy attorney supporting working families and those in need, our mission work with VOSH-CT, my life experience as a wife of 30 years and mother of 3 children-all these things that make me who I am, not because I have been or can be bought or sold on any issue. When I talk about campaign finance reform, I mean what I say. I don't talk out of two sides of my mouth, supporting campaign finance reform on the one hand and then raising thousands and thousands of special interest dollars on the other. The campaign finance reports speak for themselves-what else can I say??!!!
I'd really like to thank Abigail in CT for bringing this point forward & giving me the opportunity to comment on what I believe will be one of the most important issues of this campaign.
Thank you again for your comments & time.
Audrey Blondin

Anonymous said...
I agree with Santini. I just wish his answers were less like a college lecture and more like a real person talking to me. I wonder if Nussbaum really answered these questions or did he cut and paste from prewritten position papers. My concern is does he have the money to compete with the other candidates? From what the Courent has written it doesn't aaprear to be the case. Why is it that the smartess guy in the room always thinks they do not have to fund raise like everyone else? Or is he like Blondin and is going to drop 100,000 of his own money into the pot?

Abigail in CT

Eddie said...

New Jersey's Department of Human Services in the 80s (under Tom Kean) was a success. They made mistakes, but when dealing with troubled kids, a lot of decisions have to be made under the gun, and I think they accomplished a lot and helped non-governmental providers (I was an administrative hack for one of them) accomplish a lot, too. Unfortunately, Kean left office with the state in debt, and his successor, Jim Florio, presided over layoffs and a general demoralization, with people bounced from one job to another on account of seniority, not aptitude.

The majority of the social workers I came in contact with were caring and honest people, and I have no reason to think that isn't true in Connecticut as well. But obviously the whole culture of DCF is screwy. It will take a plan that the people who are actually doing the field work will buy into, and leadership both in DCF and the people who pay DCF's bills who will honor a long-term plan. Screwy organizations don't get fixed in a year or two. And given the vulnerable population DCF serves, you can't just dismantle the whole thing and start over in 2007.

DeanFan84 said...

Hats off to Audrey!

While I don't completely see eye-to-eye with her, I can respect where she is coming from.

The fact is that several of the male candidate for SOS have raised 50-100K in campaign money, but from big dollar contributors.

I'd much rather see self-financed campaigns, a la Ed Meyer, (the most honest Democrat in Hartford, btw)-- than crony-financed efforts, whereby a select club of Party insiders get to play a larger than deserved role in determining our candidates.

Audrey is not Steve Forbes, John Rockefeller, or the equivalent. Instead she is a heck of a hard-working woman, and she has my 100% respect, if not my total support. At least I know she is her own person.