The latest report released by the Office of the Child Advocate has renewed some loud calls coming from Republicans for the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, Joette Katz. to either be removed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, or for her to resign.
Katz was one of Malloy’s first appointees when he attained the office of the governor in 2010 and she was reappointed in 2014 and confirmed in 2015, to the objections of Sen. Len Fasano, the minority leader of the State Senate.
Fasano said Wednesday that he thinks Malloy listened to him during the most recent confirmation, though he disagreed with the outcome. Fasano wrote a letter to the governor urging him to not resubmit Katz for the position.
“She was either one of the last or the last appointment after his reelection and I think that’s because he did take my words to heart,” Fasano said.
Fasano now says Katz, whose track record and handling of the department he describes as “dysfunctional,” has to go.
According to records examined by NBC Connecticut, there have been multiple issues within DCF under the watch of Katz.
In particular there have been several deaths that investigators and the Office of the Child Advocate determined to be “unnatural.”
One of those included the death of Athena Angeles in November 2011. At the time, Angeles was a 3-year-old who was beaten by her mother’s boyfriend, and a doctor and childcare workers had reported warning signs that didn’t lead to further supervision by DCF.
Another case involved the death of 20-month-old Ayden Baskay, who was beaten by his father, and his mother was responsible for keeping the child’s father away from Ayden.
On the issue of the case involving Baby “D,” who state officials said nearly died after DCF put him in foster care, Fasano said the evidence in the case reflects a reckless pattern.
“In this case it is a tremendous responsibility to this child who had two broken arms, 18 pounds, couldn’t lift up his head, developmental disabilities, also had a brain hemorrhage from some time ago and we’re saying we’re doing our job? We’re not doing our job! These are kids!,” Fasano said.
In a statement, the governor’s communications director pointed to recent significant strides the department has made when it comes to its handling of individual cases.
The department has been under federal oversight for decades, and there have been recent indications that such control might not go away, but could ease in the coming years if progress continues to be made.
Kelly Donnelly, speaking on behalf of Malloy said in a statement, “The fact is that the federal court monitor has said that DCF has ‘made and sustained progress,' and plaintiffs in the Juan F. case, a suit brought against the state seeking better care for at-risk youth, have said that DCF is ‘moving in the right direction to reform the system for thousands of children.’ DCF is finally moving towards exiting federal court oversight after 25 years. And while there is no doubt more work to be done to ensure we improve outcomes for all children, this is most assuredly progress—any assertion otherwise is just not correct.”