The Department of Children and Families has been under court oversight since 1989 as the result of a federal lawsuit, due to the state’s inability to adequately care for abused and neglected children. In the next few weeks Connecticut’s legislators will be voting on acceptance of a revised exit plan that would end court oversight in areas the state has proven to the court monitor are no longer endemic. The plan would require reducing caseloads for DCF social workers, increasing spending by $6.4 million for mental health and substance-abuse programs, and safeguarding DCF from budget cuts as long as the agency is under court oversight. In the time that the state has been under court oversight there have been significant improvements in timely access to quality mental health treatment. Gone are the days of long waiting lists for mental health and substance abuse treatment for children and adolescents.
In 2014 the bipartisan Connecticut Children’s Mental Health Task Force issued its report recommending that: “All children in Connecticut have support and appropriate treatment for optimal well-being.”
Nationally, two-thirds of children report experiencing a traumatic event by age 16 (SAMHSA, 2016). This includes physical, sexual or emotional abuse, community and school violence, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence, violent loss of a loved one and commercial sexual exploitation. The Child Health & Development Institute reports that DCF has “emerged as a national leader in addressing childhood trauma.”
This year dedicated professionals at The Child & Family Guidance Center and The Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut will provide therapeutic services to nearly 7,000 of Fairfield County’s most vulnerable children. Rejection of the proposed exit plan will result in budget cuts and rescissions to vitally needed prevention, support and therapeutic services to children and their families.
As presidents of these two organizations we strongly urge readers to contact their senators and representatives to vote to accept the provisions of the revised exit plan. Voting to reject the proposal would be a retrenchment from Connecticut’s commitment to ensuring the provision of evidence-based, trauma informed treatments for youth.
Eliot Brenner, PhD
President & CEO
Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut
Michael Patota, MS, MSW
President & CEO
The Child & Family Guidance Center