How Connecticut Moved From Institutions to Families

Joette Katz

In this article for the Chronicle of Social Change, Joette Katz - the former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families - describes how the U.S. state of Connecticut's child welfare agency moved from a culture "that emphasized 'beds' and 'placements' to one that sought the right treatment in the family home or at least in the home of a relative or foster family." Katz explains that they "began with a child-by-child process to drastically reduce the use of group settings for children 12 and younger."

As part of the process to deinstitutionalize, the department also diverted "about 80 cents of every dollar saved in lower residential care costs into community-based and in-home services." These services include supports for families with substance use issues along with a "bevy of other in-home and community-based services" such as mental health treatment and domestic violence supports. The agency also employed the "team meeting" process to work with children, families, and staff in the child welfare system. "Initially applied in the effort to find family homes for children in institutional settings, we came to understand that this tool of engagement also could be used to prevent removals from home or at least to find a relative or kin to avoid placing a child in the home of a stranger. Begun in February 2013, these 'considered removal child and family team meetings' were implemented to engage families in finding solutions and alternatives to removing a child whenever possible."