Committee on Children
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING VOLUNTARY ADMISSION TO THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Introduced by Committee on Children
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas 70th Dist., Rep. Craig Fishbein 90th Dist., Sen. Joe Markley 16th Dist.
REASONS FOR BILL:
To study the voluntary services program operated by the Department of Children and Families.
***Substitute language as contained in LCO # 5007, replaces the language in the raised bill with language requiring a taskforce to study DCF's voluntary services program and methods for improving services, case management, and access.***
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Sarah Eagan, Child Advocate, Office of the Child Advocate :
Testified in support of this bill. This bill addresses the filing of petitions in juvenile court proceedings that may lead to the removal of a child from a guardian due solely to the child's specialized mental health or disability support needs.
Joette Katz, Commissioner, Department of Children and Families:
Testified in support of this bill. DCF has worked closely with the Committee on Children in the development and implementation of a comprehensive Children's Behavioral Health Plan. One of the major recommendations of the plan is the creation of a Care Management Entity to streamline access to and management of services in the publicly financed system of behavioral health care for children.
Christine Rapillo, Director of Delinquency Defense & Protection, Office of the Chief Public Defender:
Testified in support of this bill. Parent groups have recently formed and been actively advocating for another way to access critical care for their children, without being forced to give up custody to the state. This proposal is a step towards that process.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
I thought our experience was not standard practice for the Department, until I read an article Desperate Choices: Giving Up Custody for Care and saw that my family's experience was more common. It has come to my attention that many parents have carried the burden of guilt and shame and remain silent of how their families have been torn apart as they attempt to protect children with complex mental and behavioral health issues and their whole family.
I support reform to the voluntary placement/voluntary services program offered by DCF because of my personal experience as an adoptive and foster parent.
Parents of children experiencing severe trauma and attachment issues need help, not criticism, not degradation, not belittling, not humiliation, not denial of circumstance and certainly not losing custody. Parents around the state are counting on you to protect our ability to parent and access intensive behavioral health services for our children without a process of losing custody.
Steven Hernandez, Executive Director, Commission on Women, Children and Seniors:
Testified in support of this bill. To protect parental rights when a child is voluntarily placed in out-of-home care for the purpose of obtaining treatment for a mental health issue or developmental disability.
Pete and Mary Hryniewicz:
We strongly support reform to the voluntary services program It must be reformed as soon as possible so that no other families are harmed by the Department of Children and Families.
I'm not sure what the future holds for our daughter or for us as a family. Moving from hospital to foster home to group home without any real treatment is so frustrating and a very clear understanding of what is wrong with the system.
Sheila Matthews, AbleChild:
AbleChild sees this proposed bill as an opportunity to increase Informed Consent in Mental Health. It gives this committee the opportunity to ensure consumers have all the information before they place their child on any mind-altering drugs.
I'm testifying because my family was denied Voluntary Services in 2011. We were vilified for seeking residential treatment for our kinship adopted daughter. We were pressured into pleading down to 'uncared for' due to specialized needs and lost custody of our daughter for 2-years.
If this bill can change the voluntary placement practice so that families get the access to the care that has been recommended to treat our children without losing custody, I support that.
Dr. Lauren Ruth, Connecticut Voices for Children:
Connecticut Voices for Children supports the intent of this bill, which is to protect families when children are voluntarily placed in out-of-home care to receive mental health treatment or developmental disability services, but we feel that more information on the problem that spurred this bill proposal is important to inform how to move forward.
Tracy E. Schulz:
Families need help and encouragement, not implied threats. Dealing with mental health issues in a young child is devastating enough for the family and the needs of the family must paramount.
My family has not been helped by this policy of forcing parents to give up there parental rights. I hope that you can see the way to get rid of this way of caring for children by destroying the family.
I firmly support reform to the voluntary placement/voluntary services program offered by DCF. DCF abuse and negligence cannot be allowed to continue. DCF should be held accountable for their actions.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Joyce Turner, Assistant Clerk
Alessandra Burgett, Clerk