GREENWICH, Conn. - Dramatic change is taking place regarding the support the state of Connecticut provides to families and children in crisis. Under a new commissioner, Joette Katz, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is developing many new policies that will alter the direction of the department and the way children are cared for.
Many of these policies are sound ones, long in need of revision, emphasizing kinship and foster care. Nuances of these proposed changes should not be ignored, however, as member agencies who currently have oversight for these children adjust to fit the new DCF paradigm.
For the past two years, there have been various legislative proposals to restrict children under six, and now 12, to care that involves only relatives or foster parents. This is an admirable goal and one that DCF has worked hard to implement: to return children placed out of state closer to their families, and to recruit more foster families who have the time, energy and support services to take in someone elses child. But, like all goals, one-size-fits-all may not be the best approach or even an achievable policy.
For more than 30 years, Cos Cob-based Kids in Crisis has been a critical element of the care afforded to children in need throughout the area. They have helped more than 100,000 families since 1978. The goal of Kids in Crisis is straightforward: to provide short-term, emergency care and shelter, including complete medical, therapeutic, and educational assessments that increase the chances of a successful future for a child in danger.
Kids in Crisis is not a long-term or congregate care facility; it is a brief stop for a child experiencing pain, neglect or crisis. The nurturing care provided by Kids in Crisis includes an onsite health clinic, staffed with psychologists, social workers, medical personnel and psychiatrists in short, experts who direct short-term care and clinically sound recommendations for a new family structure where all can thrive.
This assessment component provided to children by Kids in Crisis is critical to determining every childs individual needs, and, equally important, what each family must understand to ensure a successful long-term placement.
The new rules being considered by DCF may impact this emergency shelter assessment program. Placing children with foster families or kin on a moments notice, who may not be able to immediately understand, let alone meet, a childs therapeutic needs, may prove difficult for the child and the receiving family. Families may be forced to confront situations they are not ready or willing to handle. With no proactive supports or plans in place, how ready is any family to nurture a child in crisis?
There will always be a need for a safe bed for a child removed in an emergency or middle-of-the-night trauma. The immediate evaluation services Kids in Crisis provides from the moment a child crosses its threshold meet a critical need for understanding and addressing the issues at hand. I encourage DCF to continue to partner with Kids in Crisis, to revisit and possibly adjust the proposed approach so that vital information that will ensure long-term success for both family and child is obtained.
Creating a new approach to caring for Connecticuts families is long-overdue. Creating a rigid policy may not be the best approach. There is a place for Kids in Crisis in the new DCF model of caring for children. Its important to remember that, sometimes, a rest stop on the road is needed to make the journey successful. For many children and families, that rest stop is Kids in Crisis.
Lile Gibbons, State Representative, 150th District
Ranking Member, Human Services Committee
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.