For years now Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families has presumed that when parents are unfit to care for their kids, it is better to place them with relatives, since then the kids will not feel as lost and the foster parents will have a closer connection to them. Ordinarily this is probably right, but it sure wasn’t in the case of the child lately being identified as Baby Dylan.
In 2015 when Baby Dylan was just a year old the department placed him with a couple related to his parents. The child was already suffering from developmental impairments and they got far worse with his foster parents. During five months in their custody he was given little food and no medical care, and the department’s social workers were prevented from checking on him but failed to do anything about it.
Eventually the department saw his mistreatment and found new foster parents for him, but he now has permanent disabilities. His first foster mother pled guilty to risk of injury to a minor but her sentence was only probation.
Connecticut’s child advocate, who investigates such cases, has reported that adequate background checks were not done by the department’s social workers — that they failed to discover that the first foster mother already had been accused more than once of neglect of her own son, the foster father had a criminal record, the couple had little income, and their driver’s licenses had been indefinitely suspended.
So Baby Dylan, now 8 and said to be in a home with great new parents who have adopted him, has just been awarded $12 million, apparently the biggest personal damage award ever against Connecticut state government. He’ll need the money for a trust fund to see him through a life with disabilities.
The moral seems to be that relatives can’t be merely assumed to be better foster parents and that the Department of Children and Families, while much improved, will always be at high risk of negligence.
NO PROTECTION OFFERED: Despite some recent horrible murders and assaults, Connecticut can forget about providing better protection to victims of domestic abuse this year.
The relevant legislation advancing in the General Assembly would do little more than forbid payment of alimony to domestic abusers and authorize electronic monitoring for them.
Domestic abusers seldom receive alimony and in any case courts already can deny it. And no ankle bracelet, even one monitored every minute of every day, is going to stop a crazed abuser from attacking his victim with a gun, knife, ax, or some other weapon.
Apart from around-the-clock guards, the only serious protection state government could provide to people threatened by an abusive former spouse or partner is speedy prosecution and long imprisonment of abusers.
State government is starting to consider faster and more serious prosecution of gun offenders, many of whom are repeat offenders but have never been put away for good. The same should be done with domestic abusers. Connecticut’s prisons now have plenty of room for such criminals, so many other criminals having been released early or never imprisoned at all.
An alimony ban and electronic monitoring will just be more of the empty posturing typical at the state Capitol.
ENOUGH NULLIFICATION: Will helping drug addicts shoot up under medical supervision break their addiction and regain their health?
That’s the idea of “harm reduction clinics,” which is being tried here and there around the world and is being put into legislation pending in the General Assembly. Such clinics may reduce overdoses, which are killing people in Connecticut every day, connect addicts with rehabilitation services, and take a bite out of the illicit drug trade.
Such clinics may be worth an experiment in the state, but not until they are allowed by federal law, which criminalizes them. State government’s effort to take over the marijuana trade is already violating federal law, a politically correct form of nullification, like state government’s obstruction of federal immigration law.
Enough nullification already.
Feeding drug addictions should always make public-spirited people cringe a little, and finding a location for a “harm reduction clinic” without outraging its potential neighbors will be difficult.
In the meantime state government may do best just by providing more free addiction treatment.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (CPowell@JournalInquirer.com)