Connecticut System

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Connecticut System

Postby Marina » Fri Sep 07, 2007 6:04 pm

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A Tragedy Waiting To Happen

Rick Green
September 7, 2007

One of the first big tests for Susan Hamilton, the new commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, will explode in her lap any time now.

Sooner or later, the emergency department at Connecticut Children's Medical Center will again be jammed with children and adolescents with mental health problems, and there won't be any room at a psychiatric hospital to send these kids for treatment.

So they will languish - depressed, manic, psychotic, suicidal or violent - until doctors can find a place to send them.

An emergency department doctor told me that not long ago they held a kid for 19 days. Children can routinely spend two weeks waiting - in a chaotic emergency room - for a bed in a psychiatric hospital. Another young man last spring waited five days at CCMC until he was sent to a residential treatment program in Pennsylvania.

"In my 25-plus years of pediatric administration, I know of no other problem that has been more challenging and more dangerous," said Dr. Paul Dworkin, physician-in-chief at CCMC. "My greatest fear is that a child in behavioral health crisis who is being stockpiled in our emergency department would be either critically injured or would die."

This problem has been well-documented for years, but little seems to have changed. Hamilton told me Thursday that now, "we are positioned well to see improvements."

There are more therapeutic group homes and plans to expand mobile psychiatric teams. There are more out-patient and home-based services available for families with kids in crisis. DCF, Hamilton said, is carefully studying to see where more resources need to go.

"We are working now much more effectively with all of the players in the system," Hamilton said. "It isn't something that DCF can do by itself."

That's correct; the problem is bigger than DCF, especially because schools are identifying more children in need of help. But that doesn't change the fact that there often is just no place to send a kid who arrives in the emergency room with a psychiatric disorder. Overcrowded emergency rooms mean children with other problems can't be quickly treated.

By law, as state Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein explained to me, it is up to DCF - the children's mental health agency for Connecticut - to provide leadership here.

"The emergency rooms are backed up to critical and dangerous levels. We need solutions for that now," said Dr. Harold Schwartz, psychiatrist-in-chief and vice president at the Institute of Living.

"DCF has been so dysfunctional for so many years. It has never been able to develop the focus that would carry through on a problem like this."

This past spring, when 17 of 23 emergency department beds were filled with psychiatric cases, outraged hospital administrators blew the whistle and called in the attorney general and state child advocate.

As a result, a long-delayed, six-bed crisis unit, funded in part by DCF, will open soon at Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living. It's only a stopgap.

More children with mental health problems are showing up in emergency rooms. Last year, the number of pediatric psychiatric cases coming in exceeded 1,600. It's more than 1,000 through July. A recent report showed an 11 percent increase between 2001 and 2005.

Hamilton, an old hand at DCF, has an opportunity to prove that things are changing. It's time for a comprehensive plan before another emergency room pileup. Or somebody dies.


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Postby Marina » Thu Nov 29, 2007 7:57 pm


DCF letting down the kids?

story by Alan Cohn

by News Channel 8's Alan Cohn
Posted Nov. 28, 2007
10:30 PM

(WTNH) _ A disturbing case of abuse brought to light by a Team 8 Investigation is now prompting the CT Department of Children and Families to review their policies when it comes to foster care placement.

Team 8 investigator Alan Cohn obtained internal DCF documents that revealed a shocking case of abuse inside a Stratford foster home. An investigator at DCF called the abuse of a two year old girl 'cruel' after she was found in a playpen covered with a wood board, secured by bungee cords that were hooked into holes on the top and bottom of the playpen.

The allegations surfaced against foster parents Michael and Theresa Soltis back in 2001. According to the DCF report, "The child could not stand up. She napped and slept at night with the device in place."

Theresa Soltis also admitted to at times using medical tape to bind the child's legs together. She told News Channel 8 that these methods were used to stop the child from jumping out of the playpen and harming herself and other foster children.

Gary Kleeblatt is with the Department of Children and Families and said, "It's clearly unacceptable, there's no question about it. It's unacceptable, it's against our policies. We will not permit it. When we find out it happens we will act swiftly to stop it."

DCF did act swiftly by removing the 2-year old and another foster child and did not allow any more children to be placed in the home.

But DCF did allow another foster care child to remain in the Soltis home and allowed them to adopt the child.

Alan Cohn questioned the rationale of the move by DCF saying, "I'm trying to understand when you find a foster parent binding a child's feet, putting them in a playpen and closing the cover with bungee cords and DCF determines this was done frequently, how do you ever trust that foster parent again?"

Kleeblatt responded, "We have to make an assessment based upon all the information we have together with other professionals."

And complicating that decision was the fact that the adopted child was considered 'medically fragile' and would be difficult to place in a new home.

"The decision to place a child with special needs is even more complicated," Kleeblatt said.

Jeanne Milstein is the state's child advocate and says DCF did not make the right decision.

"There is such a desperate need for those services that the system which is designed to protect kids often turns a blind eye to the facility," she said.

DCF still stands by their decision but admits that because of what News Channel 8 uncovered, changes will be made.

"We will be reviewing our policies and procedure to make sure when we make decisions we're considering different children in different ways and we have a sound basis for that," Kleeblatt said.

The adopted child is still in the Soltis home, but because of privacy reasons, DCF will not say whether or not there are open cases involving the family.


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Postby Marina » Sat Dec 01, 2007 6:24 am


Finger pointing in Hartford over DCF debacle

story by Alan Cohn

by News Channel 8's Alan Cohn
Posted Nov. 29, 2007
6:15 PM

Hartford (WTNH) _ Gov. Rell wants answers from the Department of Children and Family Services and the attorney general after a Team 8 Investigation revealed that a family with a history of abuse against foster children were able to adopt another child.

A report by DCF called a Stratford's family treatment of a foster child, 'cruel and inhumane'. The 2-year old child was discovered in a darkened room, trapped in playpen with a wood board and bungee cords. DCF removed the child from the custody of Theresa and Michael Soltis but then allowed another special needs child to be adopted by the couple.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said of the decision that, "This case is 'Exhibit A' for reviewing and changing the policies and procedures of DCF, certainly to make them more open and accountable."

But tonight Gov. Rell is pinning the blame on how the case was handled on Blumenthal. In a statement she said, "It is important to note DCF was represented in this case by the office of the attorney general, which registered no complaint about the decision."

Blumenthal defended his staff by saying, "They are not involved in decisions about placements and adoptions. They are lawyers to represent to the court the DCF personnel and their decisions and evidence."

Governor Rell says that the use of restrainst was clearly inappropriate, but stands by the DCF decision because experts believed it was in the best interest of the child. She also pointed out that the incident took place during a prior adminstration.


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Postby Marina » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:08 pm

Man: DCF Tearing Families Apart
DCF Open To Suggestions, Officials Say

POSTED: 1:45 pm EST February 19, 2009
UPDATED: 7:41 pm EST February 19, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Parents and various agencies met Thursday for a public hearing to discuss what to do to make the Department of Children and Families work better for the people it serves.

Cheryl Martone said she’s been fighting DCF to regain custody of her son for a more than a year. She said he was taken away unfairly.

“My son was involved in Boy Scouts, theater group,” she said. “I had him in swimming lessons.”

Martone said she attended a public hearing held by the Select Committee on Children to speak her mind.

“I would like to see them have more preventative measures,” she said.

“We all know that people are extraordinarily concerned about DCF, and we’re looking at the plight of our children, and the stories that we get is that DCF is not working,” said Rep. Diana Urban, the co-chairwoman of the Select Committee on Children.

“We've got some bills that deal with DCF -- some of the way they do things, some of the problems they've had -- and the reason for public hearings is to hear what the public has to say, and after we get some of the feedback, we'll go back and draft the bills around some of those comments,” said Sen. Anthony Musto, the committee’s co-chairman.

John Dibase said he’s banking on the idea. He said he lost custody of his son 10 years ago in what he claims were unfair proceedings. He said he hopes his input will bring him one step closer to getting him back.

“They are literally destroying families,” he said.

“We’re looking for feedback from the agency and from the public,” said Sen. Toni Boucher, a member of the committee.

DCF officials said the department is open to feedback.

“Ultimately, to achieve better outcomes for families and children who come in contact with the department,” said Brian Mattiello, of DCF.

In the next month, the Select Committee on Children is expected to present its formal recommendations to DCF.

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