Since 2009, the Youth Law Center has been working with Connecticut advocates to reduce group care, particularly for young children under the age of six, using research about the negative effects that group care can have on young children to advocate for change. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) issued a report on August 4, 2011, that reviews some of this research, which is available on YLC’s Just Beginning website. According to this report, congregate care will be substantially reduced for Connecticut children in foster care.
In the report, Congregate Care Rightsizing and Design: Young Children, Voluntary Placements and a Profile of Therapeutic Group Homes, Commissioner Justice Joette Katz, who was appointed Commissioner of DCF in January 2011, announced a new direction for the department that will reduce reliance on congregate care and make adjustments in the use of Voluntary Placement and Therapeutic Group Home Programs. Policy changes to be implemented by January 2012 include:
• Children ages 12 and younger are to be served in family settings and returned from current congregate care to family settings. Family settings are defined as biological homes, relative or kin placements, or other foster family care.
• No children age six or younger will placed in congregate care without formal authorization by the commissioner.
• Length of stay for children placed in congregate care through the Voluntary Services Program and the Therapeutic Group Home Program will be reduced, and a similar policy shift to shorter lengths of stay in residential treatment will also be explored.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation Child Welfare Strategy Group (CWSG) is providing technical assistance to DCF based on the Group’s successful efforts in other communities. The strategies described in the report are grounded in an analysis of children in congregate care age 12 and younger with a special emphasis on children 6 and younger and will build on recent reductions in group care, including a two thirds reduction in congregate care placements for children age 6 and younger from 76 in May 2008 to 21 in June 2011.
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