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Published On: Fri, Nov 11th, 2016

Connecticut’s DCF Frequently Takes Custody of ‘Special Needs’ Children, Data Shows

The state of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has taken custody of over 860 children since 2011 because parents could not provide or afford “specialized” care for physical or mental conditions, new data shows.

The data shows that DCF frequently used petitions marked as “specialized needs” and “uncared for” to take custody of children with behavioral problems. A group of parents brought the issue to light in a recent C-HIT story.

The group of parents, now known as Family Forward Advocacy CT, alleges that DCF uses these petitions to take custody of the children as a way to access specialized treatment that is often out of home or intensive. DCF officials say cases like this are rare, and typically involve parents who are unwilling to take their children home from hospitals or refuse to follow recommended treatment protocols.

photo Alyson Jones

photo Alyson Jones

According to the data, three “uncared for” petitions marked “specialized needs” were filed each week in Connecticut. In 2013, the number of petitions was at a high of 181.

The number of petitions filed varies by location. New Haven had the most cases, with 172 over five years. Hartford was next, with 115 cases, and Bridgeport had 101 cases. The specialized needs cases made up the majority of “uncared for” petitions.

Family Forward highlighted several cases in which DCF officials told parents giving up custody through the “uncared for” was the only way to ensure the child received necessary mental health treatment.

The alleged actions of the DCF would be in violation of a 1997 law that states the DCF is not required to pursue custody of a child with mental health illness or other disorders for the sake of providing access to “intensive outpatient services” or “out-of-home placement.”

“Practices like this put parents in an extremely difficult situation,” said Allison Maxim of Maxim Law. “Parents are making these devastating decisions, but only with their child’s best interests in mind. It’s a slippery slope.”

DCF said in a statement that it “empathizes” with parents who feel “overwhelmed with the responsibility” of caring for children who require behavioral treatment. It made no indication that it would curb its use of “uncared for” petitions for children with severe mental illness.

Author: Jacob Maslow

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  1. Maureen says:

    Until push comes to shove the DCF will not curb its use of ‘uncared for’ & neglect/abandonment petitions. There is too much federal funding attached to heads in care to stop the practice. Fundamentally, Medicaid limitations and direct access to higher level tteatment restrictions creates the larger problem. But that all goes back to the Office of Policy Management, DSS and the DCF Commissioner as gate keepers to mandated funding for treatment.Collective funding strategies and keeping parents in the role of decision-makers over their sick/troubled children and their needs gets this matter fixed.

  2. Velvet Martin says:

    Samantha’s Law

    Family-centred care practice. Support families with medical and developmental diversity directly. Stop coercion of custody to access funding for medical care. https://m.facebook.com/SamanthasLaw/

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