Monday, May 12, 2014

It Is Not About One Person

The imprisonment of Jane Doe in an adult prison is just the tip of the iceberg there are many other children in DCF custody who are being abused and neglected and some of them are also trans-children. Another trans-girl family threw her away when she came out as trans* - her first foster family refused to affirm her identity as a girl and now she is the DCF looking for a foster home. Jane Doe's lawyer said in an article in Democracy Now,
AARON ROMANO: Well, you covered that a little bit here. She was in DCF supervision from the age of five and sexually abused from the age of eight through 15. So that was about seven years of sexual abuse that she suffered. While she was in a residential treatment facility, through DCF supervision, a staff member aggressively approached her, placed her in an illegal restraint. That staff member was later discharged for that illegal restraint. And she defended herself. After experiencing sexual abuse for close to seven years, a child will have a certain sensitivity to touch or approach and may interpret certain situations from a very defensive perspective. And the staff should have been well aware of that. So in response to that, DCF just wanted to pass the buck on, so to speak, to the Department of Corrections, and they wanted to just dump her on the Department of Corrections and say, "Listen, we don’t want to take care of her anymore. You take care of her.
Tell me why hasn’t any of the DCF been arrested for sexual assault? Why hasn’t anyone been arrested for the illegal restraint? To me that is indicative of deeper problems in DCF, if one girl in their custody is abused I doubt that she is the only one who has been abused in DCF in their care.

The article goes on to say,
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the issue of DCF or the Department of Children and Families’ responsibilities in this case, given the fact that she claims she was abused while she was under their custody?

AARON ROMANO: Well, that’s curious, because what it does is it brings to light some of the issues that affect DCF agencies across the nation. DCF agencies historically have had some difficulty in dealing with children who suffer from sexual abuse or just abuse generally. There needs to be more funding for DCF agencies, so they can create safe environments for these children if they have to be removed from their families. As we can see here, there’s a lack of facilities that are available for children like Jane.
The head of DCF is the former state Supreme Court justice, Joette Katz maybe what the DCF needs is not a judge but someone who has worked to help children not someone who locks up people. The agency needs someone who has those skills of creating a safe space for children.

In an opinion in the Middletown Press the author Andy Thibault brought up that very point,
“Why open a second maximum security facility?” Martha Stone, a seasoned litigator who prevailed against the state of Connecticut in a 1993 civil rights suit over brutal and unconstitutional confinement of juveniles, Emily J. v. Weicker, put the question to the committee. The question remains unanswered. DCF could not even provide recidivism rates to the committee.

“Many of the girls who would be sent to the new facility have been physically and sexually abused,” Stone told the committee in February. “Some are in foster care. Most suffer from trauma. Many are victims of sex trafficking; others are runaways … putting these girls in a maximum security facility is not the answer.”
And the CT Juvenile Justice Alliance said in an article in the CT Mirror that,
"The whole system needs to be examined," said Abby Anderson, executive director of the CT Juvenile Justice Alliance, a statewide coalition of advocates and lawyers that represents children in the state's juvenile justice system.

The call for a review of the state's juvenile justice system comes on the heels of the state's child welfare agency's sending a transgender, self-identifying, 16-year-old girl to an adult prison for women, and a 10-year high in the number of juvenile boys housed in prison. It also follows the agency's opening a new locked facility for troubled girls earlier this month.

"A pattern has emerged of DCF locking up a higher percentage of children committed as delinquents because it lacks a robust system of less restrictive options, which are widely acknowledged as better for kids and more likely to promote rehabilitation. This case [of a transgendered youth being sent to an adult prison] is particularly startling but sadly in line with what is happening in Connecticut with increasing frequency," reads the juvenile justice alliance's call for more oversight of the agency.
As one comment that I read said, what do you expect a child who has been sexually abused, attacked, and harassed to do when faced with that environment?

It is time for reforming the DCF from a punitive model to therapeutic model. There are many good DCF employees but only a few rotting apple can tarnish the agency.

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