A message from Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes
In Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fierce or intelligent than the Masai. Perhaps it is surprising to know that they had a traditional greeting passed among their members: "Kasserian Ingera," one warrior would say to another. It means, "And how are the children?"
"All the children are well," was the traditional answer given. Interpreted to mean the priorities of protecting the young are in place and despite the struggles around them, the members ensured the well-being of the youngest and most vulnerable. Peace and safety prevail. (UUA,1996)
Communities experienced 2020 with great turmoil, loss, and uncertainty. "And how are the children?" If our recent past has taught us anything, it is that with relationships, collaboration and teamwork - children are best supported by families.
Families are best supported by communities.
None of us are in this alone.
Let us embrace 2021 with resiliency.
The evolution of our practice shifts will come into focus as we get stronger right along with our community partners.
Here is a glimpse into the year ahead…
Safe and Sound
We will continue to build a culture of safety in which our values, attitudes and behaviors support psychological and physical safety for staff. This extends how we treat the families and children we serve. Put into action, this culture allows us to be engaged, supportive, accountable and open to learning. It empowers us to competently provide services that help. Positive outcomes will be realized.
- regulate our emotions;
- relate to others authentically;
- rise to challenges in bold and brave ways;
- reason with sound decisions; and
- respond with intentional respect.
Pandemic recovery work is even more critical as we strive to become a racially just organization. Each and every action taken while performing our mission must be through a racially just lens. This is not new. It is imperative.
Attention to outcomes, within the scope of their responsibilities, DCF's senior leaders have been working to refine over 25 different change initiatives. This focus is targeted to impact the disproportionate and disparate outcomes we currently see across many aspects of our work. We must push ourselves and remain committed to fairness for all.
Collaboration and teamwork to develop CT's Family First Prevention Plan has been outstanding. Families in need of support deserve a system designed with their best interests in mind, easily accessible and leading to a connection with services located in their communities. Quality Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) will focus on limiting the length of stay in residential settings, consistent with our sustained low percentage of children in congregate care.
With over 250+ community partners actively participating in workgroups, we are close to developing the framework for a comprehensive prevention plan which will impact all children the State of Connecticut for decades to come.
Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI)
For children who cannot remain safely at home, we must ensure they reside in a family. QPI is an approach adopted Connecticut and launched on the belief that children are able to heal as they grow up to be adults, if they experience strong and positive relationships. Excellent parenting around children includes working relationships between birth parents, relative caregivers, foster families and others throughout a child's system. The QPI kick-off sessions introduced over 1,100 participants to the way we will do business going forward with children at the center of our intentions!
Watch also for the development of our Kinship Practice Model to sustain our preference for children growing up in families with someone they know.
Safety Practice Model
Safety of children remains our #1 priority.
How is "safety" defined, components of safety assessments and tools used by all child serving systems must be in concert with each other. The Department is engaged in the development of a comprehensive Safety Practice Model which will serve to create a through-line of consistency between DCF and external stakeholders. As we jointly protect children, we will serve families in a manner understood more clearly by all in the continuum.
You will hear more about CT being one of 22 jurisdictions across the country participating in The National Partnership for Child Safety. Our very own DC Jodi Hill-Lilly is a co-leader of this innovative project!
ChildStat is a real-time management accountability and quality improvement process using a combination of data analysis and case discussions to improve practice. During ChildStat reviews attended by agency leaders, data is shared, performance is measured, and practice is compared across geographic areas. Actual case themes will also be reviewed. These discussions are intended to effectuate both a shared sense of accountability and lead to problem solving the most important issues affecting child and family outcomes.
Adolescent Practice Model
Did you know that CT has just been selected to participate in a BreakThru Series to modernize our Adolescent services??? It is V.I.T.A.L. that we evolve to meet the changing needs for today's, older youth in care. Lifeskills that prepare for success, securing positive adult connections and enhancing relationships with adult-serving systems through seamless transitions are just a few components you will see attention to. Financial literacy, elevating the youth voice in policy development and creating more opportunities for alumni in foster care to support the next generation of young people to thrive will also take our work with adolescents to new heights!
This time next year … when the question is asked,
… the only acceptable answer will be "All the children are well"