State Representative DebraLee Hovey (R-112) participated in a joint public hearing of the legislature’s Human Services Committee and the Select Committee of Children this week, reviewing the practices of the State Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The hearing and review was sparked by a shocking incident in Torrington of child neglect where police officers were put on hold for over half an hour when seeking assistance from the agency through their hotline number.
Rep. Hovey, who serves as the Ranking member on the Children’s Committee, noted that while DCF Commissioner Susan Hamilton has already directed a top-down review of agency procedures and response during this event, the Human Services Committee has a responsibility to review it as well. Hovey expressed disappointment that the Commissioner did not show up for the hearing.
The hearing focused on overall procedure and not on any individual case such as the one that prompted legislators to convene.
“This legislative committee has oversight on the Department of Children and Families, and we need to be absolutely certain that this kind of failure is addressed and rectified,” said Rep. Hovey. “It is understandable that this agency can be overwhelmed at times, but there needs to be a better system in place to respond to these sorts of reports, especially when you have law enforcement official calling in for an assist. This case potentially reveals some significant holes in process for the agency. Where improper or inadequate procedures were in place, there was failure. Where there were proper procedures in place, it appears that those procedures were not followed, and staff have been allowed to make independent judgment calls without proper basis.”
The hearing lasted over three hours. Legislators heard from representatives from DCF, the office of the Child Advocate and the Child Protection Attorney.