For information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent call 1-888-KID-HERO or e-mail: KidHero@cafafct.org
A New Beginning for Us All by Commissioner Joette Katz
Behavioral Health Services for DCF Children in Foster Care
Care 4 Kids (Daycare)
CAFAF (Connecticut Alliance of Foster & Adoptive Families)
FAQ's (about Foster Care)
Foster Care Services Best Practice Guide
Information Request Form
Interstate Compacts Overview
Manual (Foster / Adopt)
Chapter 1: DCF Licensed Homes & Regional Office Staff
Chapter 2: Child Protection, Children Placed in Foster Care
Chapter 3: Adoption
Chapter 4: Education
Chapter 5: Legal
Chapter 6: Safety
Open Enrollment Application
Medically Complex Program Changes (effective 2014)
Myths and Misconceptions
Open House Calendar
Permanency Placement Services Program (PPSP)
Real Life-Real Stories (Sobie, Wynn Family, Current Family)
Social Workers: Fostering Love
The Road to Fostering (English) (Español)
Trainings (Online, For Foster and Adoptive Parents)
Why Foster or Adopt?
For all other information relating to foster care, please contact: Jacqueline.Ford@ct.gov
At the Department of Children and Families, we care about children. We want kids whose families have been torn apart to have some normalcy in their lives. We want them to feel safe and wanted, and to know that people care about them. We want them to feel part of their communities, play on sports teams, go to birthday parties and go on vacation.
We want them to have breakfast in the morning with the same people who put them to bed at night. But that will require us to recruit more foster families and do a better job of retaining the ones we have.
In the past, DCF has not always fulfilled its promise to foster parents. Our foster parents have told us that, over the years, department workers have not always given them enough information, provided them with the appropriate help and supports, or shown them the respect and appreciation they deserve. Sometimes, foster parents have reached out to caseworkers for help or advice, and waited far too long for a response.
But a new day has dawned. When I stepped down from my position as a Supreme Court justice in the winter of 2011, it was because I felt compelled to make a difference for the most vulnerable children in our state. As a judge, I frequently saw the disturbing results of a society that didn’t do enough to care for its children: parents charged with abusing their offspring, and kids in trouble with the law.
As a mom, I couldn’t bear the thought that our children were falling through the cracks. After taking the helm as commissioner of the DCF, I gathered a team to get Connecticut’s largest government agency back on the right track – to find out what was wrong, and figure out how best to make necessary changes.
Over the past year, we’ve been working on a report called “We All Need Somebody,” aimed at clarifying our mission and procedures so that foster families and foster children receive the highest level of care and support.
That report is our road map to the future. It looks at everything from how we recruit to how quickly we license foster parents; how we put needed services in a foster home and keep kids out of congregate care. This is a time of tremendous momentum and change. We are revamping our system from end to end and from top to bottom. From the minute you call DCF, you will not only get a friendly, responsive person on the other end of the line, but information, training, licensing and support – everything you need to make an informed decision, know where you stand throughout the licensing process, and connect with a child who desperately needs your care.
Those who become foster parents will also receive the resources they need: health insurance for the child, a monthly stipend, and access to programs, activities and resources that will make their experience more manageable and more rewarding.
If you’ve thought of fostering a child but are concerned that you may not be able to afford it, don’t worry. Fostering a child will not cost you anything but love. We even pay the cost of sending that child to college.
Our job – and yours – has also been made easier by new legislation that allows us, for the first time, to share personal background information about any medical and emotional challenges that children may have as a result of issues in their previous environment. Armed with better information and more comprehensive support, foster parents will be better equipped and more confident about meeting their foster child’s needs.
Many prospective foster parents have concerns about how a new child, especially one who comes from a difficult background, will blend in with their existing family. We know that these children may act out, especially in the beginning. That’s because, perhaps for the first time in their life, they feel safe to express their emotions. They are not used to structure – the family structure that you’re providing.
But as our existing foster families tell us, helping a child transition from feelings of fear, anger and hopelessness to ones of comfort, safety and warmth is one of the most gratifying experiences they’ve ever had. And involving their biological children in that process has allowed the family to relate on a deeper level and develop shared values and memories that last a lifetime.
No matter what your concern, we are here for you, in more and better ways than ever before. We know what needs to be done, and we have committed to providing the highest level of service possible.
Caring for the at-risk children in our community is an enormous undertaking. We know it’s not just about coming up with great ideas; it’s about following up and implementing. I’m determined to deliver on every promise I make, and what I can promise is better partnership. Let’s work together to help the children who need us the most.
The Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership (CT BHP) is a program that will improve the behavioral health care for children and families who are enrolled HUSKY A and HUSKY B Programs as well as providing some limited services for children enrolled in DCF Voluntary services.
DCF and DSS contracted with Beacon Health to be the Administrative Services Organization (ASO) for the CT BHP. An ASO is an organization with special expertise in behavioral health service management that can authorize and monitor various types and levels of care, track payment and collect data on consumers and providers who are enrolled in the CT BHP.
CT BHP is not a provider of behavioral health services, but rather a tool for management of behavioral health care for HUSKY members.
DCF kids who are HUSKY members and have behavioral health needs are eligible for services such as outpatient therapy, inpatient psychiatric hospital, home-based therapies such as IICAPS. CT BHP is contacted by providers to assess the child's clinical need and authorize the appropriate level of care to meet the child's needs in the least restrictive setting.
Foster Care Disruption Pilot Project - CT BHP gets intensively involved with children who are in first time foster placement. Currently piloted at the following area offices: Hartford, New Britain, Norwich, Waterbury, and Manchester. CT BHP Intensive Care Managers work with staff at the area office to coordinate about getting kids into behavioral health treatment if they need it. CT BHP Peer Specialists work with the foster parents to help them navigate the system and provide support to keep the placement intact.
- Intensive Care Managers (ICM) - behavioral health clinicians that work with the most complex behavioral health issues. Coordinate with providers and DCF to help connect to care
- Peer Specialists - CT BHP staff that have experienced behavioral health issues themselves or in family members. Work directly with families to provide support
*The services of Intensive Care Managers and Peer Specialists are not just available to those children eligible for the pilot project. Any child that has HUSKY and therefore has behavioral health benefits through the CT BHP is able to have the services of the ICM or peer specialist. The child's therapist/counselor, parent, guardian, DCF worker, foster care worker can call the CT BHP and make a request.
Tanya and Dolan Simmons of Groton, CT, first welcomed a child into their home when their own kids were 4 and 5 (twins) – all 3 sons, who are now grown and married, with children of their own. That was through the Fresh Air Fund, a program in New York that helps kids growing up in the inner city have a summer experience in a smaller town. By 2001, the Simmonses were licensed to provide foster care. Since then, they have taken in over 100 children, mostly teen boys, from right here in Connecticut. Currently, they care for Thane, age 17 and Sobie, age 18.
Sobie was just 14½ years old when he first met Tanya and Dolan, 3½ years ago. Attending Fitch High School in Groton is only Sobie’s day job. He also works at McDonald’s, a job he has held for over 2 years. He saved money diligently, and with help from Our Piece of the Pie matching savings funds, he purchased his own car. He plays basketball, lifts weights, and is active in the family’s church, The Open Door Baptist Church in Stonington.
Sobie’s first impression of the Simmons family was that “they were nice,” that their house was “calm.” Kids coming into foster care may be coming from a very chaotic environment, where they struggle against many odds to reach their full potential. Sobie credits his relationship with his foster parents as providing him with the support he has needed to “reach my milestones” such as learning to drive, purchasing his car, getting a job, and preparing for college. Sobie plans to attend Three Rivers Community College, then transfer to Eastern to complete his 4-year college degree.
Parenting teens appeals to families who may not want to tackle (or relive) the diapers stage of parenting. Foster parents meet the needs of teens by setting clear expectations, helping the youth find an activity to excel at, modeling safe and healthy relationship behaviors, and by offering a listening ear and words of guidance. Foster families raising teens generally need support with a couple of key issues: planning for after-school activities and help navigating difficult behaviors. DCF supports families through trainings that target possible gaps in parenting skills or experience, such as conflict de-escalation and internet safety. In addition, DCF helps licensed families find appropriate after-school activities to keep teens occupied and engaged in positive experiences.
The Simmons' enjoy a positive working relationship with Shawn Fizzano, Sobie’s social worker in the Norwich DCF office. Shawn helps Sobie with post-high school plans and also with practical issues such as obtaining a YMCA membership. Sobie remarks that Shawn has been “proactive,” and the Simmonses comment that they always know they can reach Shawn and that he has been very accessible to the family and to Sobie.
Shawn states of Sobie, “One of his most unique qualities is his resiliency and ability to remain focused and driven” even after facing difficulties. Shawn has worked for DCF for over 8 years, and believes the greatest impact he can make is by working with teens. Shawn’s work involves assuring that Sobie is provided with the best case management services available. He also makes sure the youth’s needs are met physically, emotionally and financially.
“I try and I try and I never give up” on kids, Tanya explains. “Kids need to know you won’t give up on them when they do typical teenage stuff” like pushing limits or typical teenage risk-taking. “There are so many kids,” she continues, “who don’t have anyone to help them” with general life skills.
Kids like Sobie and Thane, and hundreds of other Connecticut kids, need someone to teach them to drive, to help them with schoolwork, to show them how to apply for a job, to introduce them to ways they can contribute positively to society. Social worker Shawn adds, “Your love and guidance can change the lives of youth in a magnificent way.”
DCF is ready to help families and individuals to take the step of faith into the journey that is providing foster care. There is a child in CT that needs your guidance and your care.
“My heart is filled with so much joy,” explains Marcus Wynn as he tries to put into words what fostering and adopting ean to him. 18 years ago, Marcus and his wife Maribel were high school sweethearts at Middletown High School. Early in their marriage, they had two biological children, Marnaizha and Marques. At one point they visited a family member who was a foster mom. On the 9-hour car ride home from North Carolina, they discussed becoming a foster family and upon arriving back in Connecticut, Maribel made the phone call that would change their lives.
Fast forward seven years, and the family has fostered 23 children. They are currently caring for a 3-month-old boy with Downs syndrome. Their open hearts and open doors have also resulted in 3 adoptions. 15-month-old Delana came first. When she was 3, the adoption was finalized, and she is now 7. Delana’s adoption is an “open adoption,” meaning Delana’s birth family is still involved, in this case her grandfather. Maribel laughs, “We adopted the grandfather too!” In the meantime, siblings Rowan, now 7, and McKenzie, now 4, arrived, and they too were adopted. Maribel describes that Rowan “had my heart” from the moment she saw him. Maribel calls adoption day “one of the best days ever!” Family and friends packed out the courtroom in Judge Marino’s office in Middletown, followed by a huge party with cake, balloons, food and games.
Maribel’s favorite quote is “all you need is love.” Believing they can teach something to every child, no matter how short or long they stay, keeps the family motivated to continue to open their home. Maribel and Marcus also believe that foster care has been a positive experience for their biological children, Marnaizha and Marques. “Their hearts are bigger” since they became foster siblings, and “they stand up for kids with different needs at school” because they have experienced living with children who have different needs at home. Maribel explains that her biological children have always wanted additional siblings; even now they hope to adopt the baby currently staying with them and still want more kids in the future!
Working with the Department of Children and Families has been a positive experience overall for the family. The Middletown office is “very helpful and supportive” according to Maribel. Families who foster and adopt through DCF are assigned their own support social worker. The Wynn family’s support social worker, Kathleen, has always been there for them. She is very responsive and attentive to the family’s needs, quick to answer questions regarding any issues that arise and coming out to the home as needed to offer assistance. The family is certainly wiser now and their eyes have been opened to the struggles that others may be going through. In general, children come into foster care due to immediate safety issues including neglect or abuse. Prospective foster and adoptive parents are fully vetted, trained and licensed before taking in a child, and parents receive ongoing training and support. “Go for it!” Marcus and Maribel would advise others who are considering fostering or adopting. Maribel adds, “If you have the heart and you have the home, you will learn a lot and you will help a child even if it’s for only a short time.” Marcus’ advice to men who may be considering becoming foster dads is to “fully jump into it, these kids really need you. They need your love and affection. Go in 100% with your heart and have faith that it will work out.”
Marcus and Maribel wish to thank their family and close friendsincluding Victory Christian Church in Middlefield, who have been so supportive and treat every new child with genuine love and affection. Maribel states, “Being a foster family is very rewarding and truly a blessing. It can be chaotic at times but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Darla Current always knew she wanted to be a mom. She and husband Ben have three biological children – Lilia (11), Paisley (9) and Chandler (3). Not planning on having more biological children, the Currents kept hearing about foster care and adoption. One day, Darla heard a radio ad for foster care. She and Ben decided it was finally time to move forward and become a licensed foster home.
At first, the family took only respite placements. Respite usually refers to short-term, limited duration foster care. Shortly thereafter, the family learned of two little girls who needed a longer term foster care placement – Avery and Arielle, sisters aged 4 and 5 (names have been changed.)
Darla recalls that her first impression of the girls was that they were shy, but “I could tell they were really sweet and would fit in really well” with the Current family. Within 6 weeks, tragedy had struck. Avery and Arielle’s birth father passed away suddenly. Darla and Ben helped the girls to celebrate their father’s life even as they mourned his passing. The family still keeps a framed photo of the girls’ father in the home.
As for working with the Department of Children and Families, the Currents have enjoyed a positive relationship with social worker Colleen Donahue, Avery and Arielle’s caseworker. Darla comments that Colleen has been helpful, and “has given us a lot of her time.” Foster parents licensed in CT also have their own support social worker, whose job is to offer practical and emotional support to the family, make service referrals, remind families of relevant trainings, and ensure that the home meets DCF regulations, among other things.
The Currents feel that the foster parent training classes (which are the same as those for prospective adoptive parents) were helpful, but of course it is one thing to understand a concept in the class and another entirely to live it out. “You really have to know your limits, what you can do in a day,” Darla advises. The family has had to learn to advocate for their own needs and the needs of the children in their care, as well as learning to navigate the DCF system.
In terms of welcoming Avery and Arielle into their home, the family had scheduled a playdate with the other foster family ahead of time to meet the girls. They were able to let the girls help decide what to have for dinner their first night in their new home. Giving children in foster care small choices can help to empower children who may have felt powerless in the past.
The family is still dealing with many unknowns. Darla was recently diagnosed with leukemia, which meant that Avery and Arielle needed to move to another foster home. While Darla’s overall prognosis is good, the health issues disrupted a placement that the family was hoping would result in adoption, if family reunification was not going to be possible.
Hundreds of children in CT need safe, loving foster homes – kids in foster care need someone who can provide structure, consistency and love, model healthy behaviors, help a child build self-esteem, and remain flexible to accommodate many appointments and meetings that help a child to reach his or her full potential.
Like the Current family, if you have ever thought about providing foster care, if you have love to give and space in your home and life, call 1-888-KIDHERO to learn more today.
The Department of Children and Families has taken great strides over the last several years to improve how we serve vulnerable children and families in Connecticut. But, we have not done so alone. No one has been more instrumental in that progress than our foster parents.
Beyond question, foster parents have complex roles caring for children with often complicated lives. What is far less complex is what motivates them to become foster parents. They say it is simple: they love kids, and the children need them.
Parents who adopt children and provide foster care say it's the most fulfilling and important thing they've ever done. As a foster or adoptive parent, you'll have the chance to make a REAL difference -- to do something that will have lasting importance.
Children waiting to be adopted and children living in temporary foster care need adults in their lives to let them know they matter. They need parents to be positive role models and teach them to ride a bike, or pick out a prom dress, or talk about what happened in school each day. They need adults who care.
At the Department of Children and Families, we hope you'll consider stepping forward. If you do, we'll be by your side to provide training, financial assistance, and social workers to support you.
The first step in becoming a licensed foster or adoptive parent is to call 1-888-KID-HERO e-mail: KidHero@cafafct.org.
Adoption: For information regarding Adoption please contact Anne Marie Stonoha at AnneMarie.Stonoha@ct.gov
Foster Care: For Information about please contact Jacqueline Ford at Jacqueline.Ford@ct.gov
Subsidies: For all other information relating to adoption or relative guardianship subsidies, please contact Deanna McIntosh at 860-550-6608 or email@example.com