(Updated 1:44 pm)Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday he plans to reappoint controversial Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz when his second term begins next month.
Katz, a former state Supreme Court justice, is among the last in a series of administration announcements about the leadership of various state agencies ahead of the Malloy’s second term in office.
Katz has made a number of controversial decisions during Malloy’s first term that drew criticism from child advocates, Republican lawmakers, and attorneys.
There was a quiet campaign for the past few weeks to convince Malloy to get rid of Katz, who some view as a liability to the administration. From her handling of Jane Doe, a troubled transgender youth in DCF care, to the increase in children with mental illness in emergency rooms, Katz has been criticized for her handling of several issues.
However, Malloy praised Katz and her team at DCF.
“Commissioner Katz has proven that she is someone with the strong leadership capabilities that are required for this important position, along the compassion to see that the most vulnerable among us are protected. She has shown she has the experience to lead a team of dedicated staff who strive to ensure that Connecticut’s children and families are healthy, safe, smart and strong,” Malloy said in a press release.
Malloy touted DCF’s emphasis on placing children with relatives rather than in facilities both in and out-of-state. According to the release, the number of children in group care has declined by 54.7 percent since Katz took over and 96 percent fewer children are being housed out-of-state. Meanwhile, the overall number of kids in state care has dropped by 16 percent.
“I look forward to having her on board to continue this critical work,” Malloy said.
In a quarterly report published in July, a federal court monitor overseeing the agency concluded the agency has made “significant progress” but has lingering areas of “inadequate performance.”
“While DCF decreases in the utilization of out-of-home care and overly restrictive congregate care treatment programs are notable achievements, the state has failed to reinvest appropriately to service the needs of “diverted” children who will now reside much more often in the community and depend on appropriate and timely community based services,” the report said.
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said he had concerns about Malloy’s reappointment of Katz, who he said has pushed her department in the wrong direction.
Fasano said Tuesday Katz’s focus on moving children out of group homes has hurt some kids.
“She’s closing group homes without any notification to families. I’ve met with some parents. I’ve met with group home representatives, who said in three days they had to shut down group homes. They get a call. Really? Some of these kids went back to the street. That’s the only home some of these kids have known in their life and they’re told ‘you’ve got to move out,’” he said.
Fasano also pointed to a decision by the State Child Advocate in June to investigate the deaths of nine children whose families had been in recent contact with DCF.