Following a four hour hearing, the Appropriations Committee voted overwhelming against a plan that would require Connecticut to increase funding for the Department of Children and Families to $801.2 million a year. That’s more than $794.2 million it’s expected to receive this fiscal year.
The settlement would allow the child welfare agency to get out from under federal oversight its been under for more than two decades. The lawsuit filed by the plaintiff Juan F. in 1989 found that the agency fell short of caring for abused and neglected children.
Settling the lawsuit and eventually ending federal court oversight would save the state about $1 million a year, which is what the state pays the federal court monitor and his staff.
The settlement, which was negotiated by the department along with its outside counsel, would have reduced monitoring of different aspects of the agency from 22 to six.
Sen. Gayle Slosssberg, D-Milford, said if DCF is saying it can achieve all 22 outcome measures then she doesn’t understand why they don’t go back into court and negotiate an end to federal oversight.
She said she prefers that approach to one that “binds this legislature in perpetuity for who knows what,” Slossberg said. “We have the tools, we have the plan, all we have to do is ensure we have the funding for at least the year to ensure that we make these 22 goals.”
Slossberg was one of 10 Senators to vote against the report. Only two senators on the committee voted in favor. On the House resolution 32 members voted against it and only five voted in favor.
If the legislature decided to do nothing with the settlement, it would be adopted on Feb. 6 without a vote of the full General Assembly, much like a labor contract. However, both the House and the Senate have decided to vote on the settlement.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said a diverse group of stakeholders supported the settlement and they hope the legislature will still adopt it, despite the unfavorable report it received Monday.
“This settlement agreement has the support of the plaintiffs,” Donnelly said. “It has the support of the federal court. It has the support of the Department of Children and Families. It has the support of the Attorney General. It has the support of Connecticut Voices for Children. It has the support of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance. While today’s vote is disappointing, we remain hopeful that this settlement will be approved and that Connecticut can continue making progress for its families and children.”