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Connecticut DCF Commissioner: No Need for Independent Ombudsman

Chion Wolf
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz.

The Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families said she doesn’t believe her office would benefit from the oversight of an outside ombudsman. 

DCF found itself in the headlines once again in recent months as a Groton toddler was found to be near starvation in the care of a relative with whom the department had placed him.

That case led to the suspension of two staff members and an internal investigation.

But in other cases, families who have had contact with the department have said they feel their concerns are not being heard.

DCF operates with an internal ombudsman who reports directly to commissioner Joette Katz.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Katz refuted the assertion of parents who say the ombudsman is non-responsive and disrespectful to them.

"When I hear that, I often then find out that they didn’t even try to contact the ombudsman’s office," she said. "I want to differentiate between not being responded to and not getting your way, because I think there’s a real difference there."

She’s faced calls in the past from Republican lawmakers for a change to an independent ombudsman – but Katz said she’s happy with the cooperation she’s getting.

"What I can tell you is when I have an ombudsman whom I work with closely in that office, they are available to me 24/7 and I use them 24/7," she told the show. "I’m not sure I’d get the same kind of response from an outside entity."

She also pointed to the input she gets from the Office of the Child Advocate.

Connecticut’s DCF has been under federal court oversight for almost 30 years. Katz said that in order to exit the oversight, the state will have to commit to more staffing for the department.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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