In response to reports detailing conditions and incidents at the Department of Children and Families’ two locked facilities, the legislature’s Children’s Committee plans to hold an informational forum at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, and Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, who co-chair the Children’s Committee, said Tuesday the informational forum will focus only on Dr. Robert Kinscherff’s report because some of the staff at the Office of the Child Advocate, which released its own report shortly after Kinscherff, are unable to attend Wednesday.
Urban said the committee will hear from Kinscherff and officials from DCF about the corrective action they’ve taken in response to Kinscherff’s report.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz has said her staff began making changes after Kinscherff’s report was released, including the scheduling of clinical staff on second shift and reducing the use of restraint and seclusion.
Bartolomeo said they felt a real sense of urgency and a responsibility to learn more about the information in Kinscherff’s report and to find out more about what DCF is doing. Once they learned he was available to travel from Massachusetts, they decided to hold the hearing, knowing there would be opportunity in the future to hear about the Child Advocate’s report.
In addition to the Children’s Committee’s informational hearing, legislative leaders have called for a joint public hearing of the Appropriations, Children’s, and Human Services Committees on both reports. That meeting has yet to be scheduled.
The reports prompted Senate Republican leader Len Fasano to call for Katz’s resignation. He said the Children’s Committee informational hearing “is all for show” to give DCF a platform to pretend it’s doing something.
“This is not about seeking the truth,” Fasano said. “This is about the power of one-party rule.”
Urban said she gets that it’s a “sensational issue” that’s made headlines and that’s why they wanted to promptly hold a hearing to get at the information in the report and find out what DCF is doing about it.
But Fasano doesn’t buy it.
“If this was about kids lives then I dare the committee to put those tapes out in public,” Fasano said, in reference to videotapes obtained by the Child Advocate showing children at the facilities being restrained and secluded, in some cases after attempting suicide.
The Child Advocate hasn’t made the videos available to the public, but has made them available to lawmakers and the news media. What’s in the videos is detailed in the Child Advocate’s report.