Although I’m very happy with my move to Virginia, I like to keep up with what’s going on in Connecticut, especially because I lived and worked there for so long.
And any news story that concerns the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) immediately piques my interest. Usually, not in a good way.
After Andrew McClain died while being restrained at Elmcrest Psychiatric Institute, naturally enough I did some snooping around to find any other similar instances, of which there were many.
One of the first which I became aware of was 12-year-old Robert Rollins who died while being restrained at Devereaux School in Massachusetts, not far north of where I lived in Connecticut. Robert was in the custody of Connecticut DCF, yet was placed at Devereaux in Rutland, Massachusetts. I have since learned that it is not uncommon for children in state custody to be placed outside of their home state.
Robert died while in a face-down restraint, similar to that in which Andrew McClain died. Robert died after a dispute with staff over a teddy bear.
My point is that these kids died while in the care and custody of the State of Connecticut, and now we learn of the death of 7-month-old Michael Brown, Jr., who had been placed in the home of Suzanne Listro as a foster child one week previously. Ms. Listro has now been charged with manslaughter, and is being held on $1 million.
What makes things worse in my mind is that Ms. Listro is a 15-year employee of DCF, most recently working as a children’s services consultant.
AND, she had been investigated twice–in 2006 and 2007–on allegations that she had abused her own child, a child whom she had adopted through an international adoption agency.
I know working with troubled kids and families is hard. I’ve been there. And there are so many families who need help and the case loads just keep growing and growing and it seems like things are not improving.
But someone along the way should have seen the red neon signs flashing and young Michael should never been placed with someone with previous abuse allegations (and, yes, I know they were found to be unsubstantiated) nor with someone who worked with DCF. There is a definite conflict of interest there, and it was wrong to allow it.
Now we have a dead child, a grieving family, a woman charged with manslaughter, a sad internationally-adopted child whose mom may go away for many years, and another stain on the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
DCF Commissioner Susan Hamilton’s remarks about the situation can be found here.