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Judge Rebukes State On DCF Denies Request To Reconsider Blueprint, Questions State Officials' Good Faith

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Old February 12th 04, 08:22 PM
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Default Judge Rebukes State On DCF Denies Request To Reconsider Blueprint, Questions State Officials' Good Faith

Judge Rebukes State On DCF Denies Request To Reconsider Blueprint,
Questions State Officials' Good Faith
February 11, 2004 By GARY LIBOW, Courant Staff Writer
BRIDGEPORT -- A U.S. District Court judge Tuesday flatly denied a
request by state officials to reconsider a court-ordered blueprint for
enhancing services to vulnerable and abused children.
Judge Alan H. Nevas, during a hearing of more than an hour, questioned
whether Gov. John G. Rowland and other state officials were acting in
good faith in funding Department of Children and Families improvements
to protect at-risk children.
Nevas said it appeared the governor and state officials were
attempting to evade responsibility for fully financing improvements to
DCF as recommended by federal court monitor D. Ray Sirry.
Attorney Ann H. Rubin, representing the state, argued that the 28-page
pact Nevas handed down in December - compelling DCF to meet 22
specific standards of care for foster children by 2006 - did not
represent a court order.
Nevas, in his ruling, said the state's rationale lacked merit and
"borders on frivolous."
Rubin also contended a provision requiring the state to "provide
funding and other resources necessary" to implement the plan should be
revisited because it may violate state law.
Nevas disagreed, warning Rubin that the state could face court-ordered
financial sanctions if it fails to provide adequate funding to
facilitate and support the recommended DCF enhancements.
The federal judge was particularly irked by Rowland's recent budget
message, which he said appeared to be "backsliding" on the state's
financial obligation to improve DCF. The governor appeared to be
prompting lawmakers not to respect the spirit of the agreement, he
Nevas reminded the state that without the court-sanctioned plan, it
could have lost control of DCF.
"This agency was on the brink of receivership," he said. The court
plan, agreed to by the state, "avoided that drastic measure."
Marc Ryan, Rowland's budget chief, said the governor was merely
posturing in his address to state legislators and remains "committed"
to funding the enhancements.
Following Nevas' ruling, attorney Ira P. Lustbader, associate director
of New York-based Children's Rights Inc., charged state officials with
trying to subvert their responsibility.
"This was truly a shameful and frivolous attempt on the part of the
state to shrink from the promises made to its most vulnerable
children," Lustbader said.
DCF Commissioner Darlene Dunbar said the state "respects the decision
of the court" and will forge ahead with goals spelled out in the plan.
Ryan said when he discusses Nevas' ruling with Rowland he will not
recommend the state appeal Tuesday's decision.
"We want to make this work," said Ryan, who is managing DCF with Sirry
and Dunbar as part of a special task force overseeing the sweeping
Mandated improvements range from reducing workers' caseloads to
speeding adoptions and providing enhanced medical, dental and health
Defend your civil liberties! Get information at http://www.aclu.org, become a member at http://www.aclu.org/join and get active at http://www.aclu.org/action.

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