State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said the Children and Families Department inexplicably shamed the transgender teen known as Jane Doe this month with a press release about a July fight involving Doe and three other girls.
“The public shaming of Jane Doe — a victim of significant abuse and neglect — is also inexplicable in light of the fact that the July 12 incident involved four girls, all of whom were restrained, all of whom were described in DCF records as hitting each other and staff,” Eagan wrote in a Wednesday statement.
The three-page statement from the child advocate is the latest in what has become a lengthy public dispute over the well-being of the 16-year-old Doe, which was ignited when her legal caretaker — DCF — had a court transfer her to an adult prison. The state argued that the troubled youth was too violent to be housed in their care.
Doe spent weeks at York Correctional Institute before the department, responding to public outcry, moved her to a locked facility for girls in Middletown called the Pueblo Unit. That’s where the July 12 incident took place, which prompted a press release from the department signaling Doe would be moved to the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys.
Eagan said DCF unfairly singled out Doe, despite the involvement of other girls in the fight.
“One of the girls was restrained on five separate occasions during the same night — including being placed in handcuffs and prone restraint — long after the initial incident had ended. No transfers were announced for any of the other girls involved in the incident,” the child advocate wrote.
Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for the department, said DCF decided to release a statement on Doe because of the “extensive” media coverage her case had previously received. He said it would not have been possible to move her to the boys’ facility without the transfer becoming public.
“Given the fact that every placement or potential placement for the youth has been the subject of extensive news coverage, we thought the most transparent and accountable way to handle the move to CJTS was to announce it publicly,” he said.
Although the incident remains under investigation, Kleeblatt said the department believes one of the four girls involved in the July 12 fight was a victim. Another appeared to be aiding the victim, while a third girl was transported to a hospital for “self injurious behaviors.”
After the incident, Kleeblatt said Doe “destabilized” the Pueblo Unit by tearing a sprinkler head from the room, which caused the doors to open and flood damage to occur.
The department had announced in June that Doe had been “tentatively accepted” into a privately-run youth facility in Massachusetts. Kleeblatt said Thursday those plans have been scrapped.
“Although the Massachusetts facility previously identified has formally rejected Jane Doe, and although approximately two dozen other facilities have rejected her because of her behaviors or their inability to treat her in a setting with other girls, we will continue to seek opportunities for placement,” he said.
Eagan said the department’s statement on the July incident suggests it may have a conflict of interest with regard to Doe.
“DCF is Jane’s guardian and is legally obligated to make decisions that protect her best interests. DCF’s rush to publicize a fraction of an incident is difficult to reconcile with its parental role. DCF may also have a conflict of interest between its role as Jane’s guardian and its role as a systems manager for juvenile services. If this is the case, a Guardian Ad Litem should be consulted on decisions that impact Jane’s wellbeing,” she wrote.