Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has achieved all of the "program improvement plan" goals set with the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which oversees all state child welfare agencies.
The ACF informed the Governor of the successful completion in a letter that said the department's new focus on family strengths and family participation is largely responsible for the significant progress. The Governor said the letter confirms the advances made at DCF since January 2011.
"It is encouraging to see others from outside Connecticut validate the impressive improvements that are underway," Governor Malloy said. "The department's staff has been making important strides in building new relationships with families and communities, and the results reflect it."
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the department staff has embraced the new way of conducting business -- known as the "Strengthening Families Practice Model" -- and that this reform has led to a reduction of 875 children in state care or 18.3 percent compared to January 2011. There are also fewer children in congregate care, 89.5 percent fewer children in out of state care, and more children in care living with a relative or someone else they know.
"The DCF staff is making important improvements through their commitment to family-centered reforms, and they deserve full credit," Commissioner Katz said. "The federal government's recognition of the advances only confirms the good results that come when you build on family strengths and gain family participation in all our work."
The federal action completes a process that began in 2008, known as the "Child and Family Services Review." The Children's Bureau of the ACF conducts these reviews for all 50 states. In 2009, the ACF issued its report for Connecticut that found the state was not in "substantial conformity" with six of seven required outcomes and two of seven system factors. States found not to meet the standards are required to develop and implement a "Program Improvement Plan" or PIP.
The federal government's letter said, "ACF has verified the State's completion of all action steps . . . This is an important milestone in our ongoing work to support the safety, permanency, and well-being of Connecticut's most vulnerable children. We commend your DCF staff, under the leadership of Joette Katz, for their diligent efforts to achieve system change through Connecticut's PIP."
In addition to the new family-centered focus, the ACF also noted improvements in supervision and management in ensuring continuity of relationships for foster children and improved system factors as being responsible for achieving the goals.
Commissioner Katz said this in no way represents the end of the department's reform activities. "Great inroads have been made in how we partner with families and build upon their strengths to benefit children," she said. "But there will always be continued challenges, and so we are committed to getting better."
Commissioner Katz said while much more work remains, there are additional indications that improvements are taking hold. Under the Juan F. Exit Plan, the department has been challenged particularly in meeting two of the 22 required outcomes, including a measure for meeting the needs of children across 11 different criteria. In the recently-released Juan F. report for the second quarter of 2013, the department was found to have met the needs of 74 percent of the children reviewed by the Court Monitor, which represents the highest performance since the beginning of the Exit Plan in 2004.