The Center for Children’s Advocacy wrote and advocated for important legislation to improve the lives of Connecticut’s vulnerable abused and neglected children. The following summarizes 2011 legislation that directly impacts children’s lives.
Placing an abused or neglected child with relatives can ease the trauma suffered when a child is removed from home. Connecticut’s kinship care rate lags far below the national average. This legislation requires DCF to take steps to increase the number of abused and neglected children placed in relative foster care. Effective Oct. 1, 2011.
While child abuse and neglect proceedings have historically been closed, there is increasing recognition that shedding light on the child welfare system and the needs of families and children can lead to increased accountability and improved outcomes for children. This legislation permits individuals or entities, including the media, who have a legitimate interest in a child welfare hearing or the work of the court, to observe the court hearing. The legislation allows the court to prohibit any disclosure of identifying information regarding the child, the child’s caretakers or family. Effective Jul. 1, 2011.
Within 48 hours of leaving home, one in three youth are lured into prostitution (domestic minor sex trafficking). Law enforcement is the most likely entity to come into contact with these victims and DCF is best suited to provide help. This law requires DCF to conduct child abuse or neglect investigations of youth who are arrested on prostitution charges. Effective Oct. 1, 2011.
This legislation creates a new category of utility protection for Connecticut’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Under the new law, if a child under 24 months of age is about to be discharged from the hospital and the household is threatened with utility termination, the physician can complete a certification stating that the health and well-being of the child is in jeopardy if the utilities are terminated. This protection is part of this session’s sweeping reform of utility law in Connecticut. Effective Jul. 1, 2011.
Youth released from the juvenile justice or criminal justice system face many barriers to successful return to school and community. This legislation addresses the refusal of school districts to promptly enroll students upon their return, and credits students for instruction completed while in juvenile justice placements. Effective Jul. 1, 2011.
Disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in Connecticut’s juvenile justice system has persisted for decades. Youth of color are more likely to enter and progress further through the juvenile justice system than their white peers. This legislation implements two of the recommendations of Connecticut’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee of the Office of Policy and Management: it requires a court order before a child can be sent to detention, a practice that has proven effective in eliminating DMC at the point of entry to detention, and requires state agencies to report on plans and progress to reduce DMC. Sec.1 effective Oct. 1, 2011; Sec. 2 effective upon passage.
When a child is truant, there is often no action taken until attendance issues are at a critical stage, making it difficult to re-engage a struggling child in school, particularly if the child suffers from undiagnosed or unrecognized mental health or educational disabilities. This legislation requires schools to file “Families With Service Needs” petitions within fifteen days of a parent’s failure to cooperate with school efforts to address a truancy issue. Sec.13, 19, 20, 21 effective from passage; remainder effective Jul. 1, 2011.
Although the legislature did not pass CCA-sponsored bills seeking to reduce the number of DCF involved children who are placed in group or institutional care facilities, the Department of Children and Families has publicly committed to ensuring that children, whenever possible, are placed in community and family-based settings. DCF has identified the development of comprehensive, community-based mental and behavioral health support services as a top priority for the new agency administration. DCF has also agreed to continue its efforts to reduce, and potentially eliminate, the use of congregate care facilities for children ages birth to five years old.
DCF Legislative Summary
Legislation of interest to the Department of Children and Families that passed during the 2011 Regular Session. These summaries are based largely on the bill analysis prepared by the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Research.
Education Legislation Summary
Shipman & Goodwin, 2011