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Governor Ned Lamont


Governor Lamont Nominates Jodi Hill-Lilly as Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families

Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes to Leave State Service in January

Jodi Hill-Lilly
Jodi Hill-Lilly
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(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he will be nominating Jodi Hill-Lilly to serve as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) when the 2024 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly begins in February. She will succeed Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes, who is planning to leave state service in January to pursue a new opportunity in the private sector.

Hill-Lilly has worked at DCF since 1988. She is currently the agency’s deputy commissioner of administration in a role that she has held since 2019 and that requires her to oversee several of its administrative functions, including fiscal services, human resources, workforce development, information systems, multicultural affairs, and systems development. She also leads the department’s initiative on racial justice and is responsible for assisting with the development and implementation of policy, training, and coaching on issues related to race and culture throughout the agency and with community partners.

Prior to her current role, Hill-Lilly was DCF’s director of training, in which she was responsible for delivering and providing a multi-faceted training program for employees statewide. She also worked for the agency as a child welfare trainer, an investigations supervisor, and a case management social worker.

Hill-Lilly was one of only 15 fellows and the only child welfare professional to be selected for class 12 of the Annie E. Casey Fellowship program focused on leadership development for administrators in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and public sectors to improve life circumstances of children, youth and families living in low-income communities. She is the co-chair of the National Partnership on Child Safety and is a nationally recognized practice improvement and subject matter expert and consultant including for the Center for States in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, and the American Humane Association.

She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in social work from Southern Connecticut State University.

“Jodi has dedicated her career to strengthening the lives of children and families, and her direct, hands-on experience in this field, including as a case management social worker, will be a valuable benefit to Connecticut as we work to protect the safety and security of the youngest and most vulnerable residents of our state,” Governor Lamont said. “For more than 35 years, she has been intimately involved in every aspect of our state’s child welfare system and has formed strong relationships with the state and community partners who contribute to these efforts. Jodi will be able to seamlessly transition into the role of commissioner, and I thank her for agreeing to step into this leadership position.”

“Good leaders listen, they learn, and they remain teachable,” Hill-Lilly said. “In this world of child welfare and well-being, that means taking to heart the lived experiences of our kids, our families and our communities, and keeping our promise to remain accountable as we strive to serve their unique needs. I am grateful for the trust Governor Lamont has placed in me to follow in the footsteps of Commissioner Dorantes. My friend and my colleague of decades will be a hard act to follow, but I am committed to continuing the momentum of all we have accomplished over the last five years.”

Dorantes is leaving DCF after working with the department for more than 31 years. Since becoming commissioner in January of 2019, the department has reduced the number of children in state care and custody by approximately 30%. During this time, the department has helped more than 7,200 children have reached permanent housing, including 2,324 adoptions, 1,794 transfers of guardianship, and 3,117 reunifications.

Governor Lamont specifically credits Dorantes’ leadership with helping to bring an end to the three decades of federal court oversight DCF accepted under the Juan F. consent decree, which ended last year. The court’s decision to end the oversight indicated the court agreed that DCF had made transformative, systemic reforms that are meeting the needs of children in care.

“I am so grateful to have had Vannessa at the helm of DCF for the last several years, and I am absolutely convinced that her leadership is responsible for having a forever impact on improving the lives of many children in Connecticut,” Governor Lamont said. “The employees who work with DCF have some of the most essential responsibilities that we face in state government, and their selfless dedication to their work is an inspiration. Throughout her more than three decades with DCF, Vannessa has been amazingly devoted to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable youths of our state. She is a friend, and I applaud her public service to Connecticut.”

“Social work is not just what I do, it’s who I am,” Dorantes said. “I have the highest regard for the DCF staff – as they are me. They make personal and professional sacrifices each and every day to keep children safe, empower parents, and strengthen Connecticut families. I will miss all of our cherished memories, shared experiences and accomplishments – most notably from the last five years. Lastly, I cannot thank Governor Lamont enough for his unconditional support from day one and the faith he has shown in me and my team. His trust in my leadership has been unparalleled.”

When Dorantes departs DCF in January, Hill-Lilly will immediately begin serving as the agency’s interim commissioner until her confirmation by the legislature as commissioner.

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