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Child Advocate Finds "Gross Systems Failures" in Case of Baby Dylan

Chion Wolf
Connecticut's Child Advocate, Sarah Eagan.

A new investigative report from the Office of the State Child Advocate found "gross systems failures" across several units of the Department of Children and Families and other state agencies in their care of a toddler who almost died while in foster care.

In June of 2015, DCF removed 13-month-old Dylan (not his real name) and his two siblings from their home.

The removal was supposed to protect the toddler from chronic neglect by his biological parents, but after five months, in the foster care of a relative, Dylan was near death. He was rushed to the hospital, extremely undernourished, underdeveloped, and suffering from broken bones, bruises, and abrasions that doctors at Connecticut Children's Medical Center said were consistent with inflicted trauma.

The Office of the Child Advocate investigated, and concluded that DCF and Dylan's court-appointed lawyer either ignored or failed to follow up on a number of warning signs, which prolonged Dylan's abuse and neglect.

The report found that the abusive foster relative, Crystal Magee, had a history of allegations of abuse of her own son, and also had a prior assault conviction.

"They really didn't even come close to meeting the licensing criteria," said Sarah Eagan, Connecticut's Child Advocate. "And even after the child was placed there, there were an astonishing number of red flags raised about the child's care and condition: missed medical appointments, missed appointments with the developmental service provider birth to three, [and] numerous missed appointments."

The report also found that every time DCF's child protective services unit visited Crystal Magee's home, Dylan was always asleep, but case workers failed to wake him to assess his well being.

"This is a child whose health and condition deteriorated over time in a state placement, which would be a very unlikely outcome for a child who is well monitored by any part of our system," Eagan said.

In the report, the OCA recommended that DCF should increase its monitoring of at-risk infants and toddlers, and strengthen checks and balances to make sure employees are following proper protocol.

In a written statement, DCF admitted that baby Dylan's case did "not meet our standards," and said three employees were subject to disciplinary action after an internal investigation.

"The Department is taking all possible steps to ensure that the problems identified have been addressed, and we will continue to evaluate and adjust these actions to achieve our goal of safely maintaining children in care with kin whenever possible. In addition, the work with this family was transferred to other offices," wrote DCF Commissioner Joette Katz.

The OCA's report prompted Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano to call for Katz's resignation, saying the report shows a lack of leadership, and accusing her of having no control over the agency.

"Anybody who has children will find this report chilling," Fasano said. "This case provides a window into an agency that fails to follow the law and properly protect children. This is a problem of agency culture, and Commissioner Joette Katz must take full responsibility for this environment and the pattern of disturbing failures throughout multiple levels of her agency."

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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