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News- “DCF Worker Charged In Death Of Infant”, the Connecticut foster care restructuring after the death of Michael Brown Jr.

(Credit where credit is due, story brought to my attention courtesy of my ex-wife, Mahalo dear!)


By way of The Hartford Courant were come to a July 18th article, DCF Worker Charged In Death Of Infant, which details the sad May 19th death of Michael Brown Jr, a 7-month-old foster child.

(Also note the video available on the page, while not very well written, it does mention Michael’s previous foster mother coming wanting to know what happened.)

His foster final mother, Suzanne Listro is now facing first-degree manslaughter and risk of injury to a minor charges

Unfortunately, this rapidly devolves into something far more complicated. Listro herself is a 15-year DCF employee who had been granted her foster parent license in February.

I strongly advise readers to see the entire article.

Listro herself, had a history of previous abuse investigations, she:

had been investigated twice by DCF since 2006 in response to allegations she had abused her adopted 3-year-old son. In each instance, the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated by DCF investigations, which the head of the agency described Thursday as “substandard and unacceptable.”

The article notes further down:

The 3-year-old, now in DCF custody, was adopted through an international agency that also checked Listro’s background, Hamilton said.

So both the unnamed agency and DCF’s own investigations failed to turn up the previous alleged abuse, and went ahead and gave her kids.

This has spurred a massive investigation at CT DCF, changes in policies about how previous abuse investigations, and suspensions of those involved in the placement. Commissioner Susan I. Hamilton is in essence working up an agency policy restructuring in the wake of Michael’s death:

Along with the discipline imposed on the investigators and their supervisors, Hamilton said she has called for several other steps to make sure abuse investigations are conducted more thoroughly and to make sure licensing officials have access to all background information before granting foster care licenses in the future.

Hamilton said she has placed the special investigations unit that looked into the earlier abuse allegations under new management while ordering a complete overhaul for the unit, including retraining for all staff on the proper conduct of investigations.

In the meantime, she said, she has ordered her chief of staff to review all recent unsubstantiated investigations, as well as cases that have been substantiated but with recommendations that the case be closed, to make sure they were conducted properly.

To prevent background information from slipping through the cracks, Hamilton said, she has ordered all future abuse investigations, substantiated or not, to be entered into the agency’s database and to cease keeping unsubstantiated files in hard-copy form.

She said she has also ordered a review of all DCF employees who have been granted foster care licenses to make sure they were granted properly.

The agency, which employs more than 3,400 people, has 28 employees who are licensed foster parents, as well as 15 who are in the process of obtaining a license, she said.

To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the agency will also begin outsourcing all applications for foster care licenses involving DCF employees to a private contractor by Oct. 1, Hamilton said.

Said outsourcing will be something to keep our eyes on closely. The privatization of licensing for example has been a common facet of dismantling previous state authority over such matters. Costs related to that contract should also be examined carefully.

Child Welfare League of America is being brought in to conduct an “independent review”:

Lastly, the commissioner said, she has asked the Child Welfare League of America to conduct an independent, comprehensive review of the Listro case to identify any other systemic problems or possible solutions.

“I want to again stress that I and the entire department are responding as fully as we can to this tragic loss,” Hamilton said.

For Michael of course, this is all too little too late. The system failed him completely.

The lack of inclusion of any evidence of the previous investigations caused DCF and the unnamed agency to greenlight Suzanne Listro. As always, when I find time, I will see what I can do about finding the agency in question.

One can’t help but wonder, if this was the policy in CT, how many other states foster and adoption programs are doing placements without the full history available to them?

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