DCF: DCF Programs and Services Descriptions

DCF Programs and Services Descriptions

Adolescent Services assists youth, under the care of DCF, to make the transition from out of home care to a self-sufficient, productive life as an adult in the community. The Adolescent Specialists and Independent Living Coordinators provide specialized case management services, monitoring and support services through a variety of programs. Follow this link to learn more at the Adolescent and Juvenile Services webpage

Child Protective Services primarily carries out DCF’s mandate and responsibility to investigate all reports of alleged child maltreatment and to provide services to all children found to be in such a condition. There are 14 regional offices located throughout Connecticut (go to DCF Offices).  A variety of wrap around services are provided to children in their homes as well as children in temporary and permanent placements (such as foster care, youth shelters, residential facilities, group homes, pre-adoptive homes, etc.).  Voluntary Services offers support to families who contact the agency and meet the requirements.  In order to best serve families with multiple needs, DCF contracts with numerous agencies to provide services such as, psychiatric/psychological/therapeutic, anger management, parenting classes, parent aides, domestic violence, substance abuse, family preservation and reunification.  All of these services are prepared to meet the needs of people of all ethnic/cultural backgrounds and are able to provide services in various languages.

Foster and Adoption Services are responsible for the coordination, planning, and implementation of foster care and adoption initiatives statewide.  On any given day there are 3,500 children in out of home care.  Some of the children are hard to place due to their special medical needs and/or need for a home that will take a sibling group.  Therefore, foster and adoption staff provide ongoing recruitment efforts (Open Houses), home assessments, training and licensing, and support services of foster care and adoptive parents.  Specialized recruitment is also provided through this Office of Foster and Adoption Services.  This office is also responsible for out of state inquires and maintains a photo listing of all available children currently awaiting adoption. Follow this link to learn more at the Foster and Adoption website.

Careline is open 24 hrs/7 days a week to receive calls from people with questions, concerns, and reports of child abuse and neglect.  The Careline also provides evening, weekend, and holiday investigation responses to immediate situations concerning abuse and neglect of children.  In addition, the Special Investigation Unit investigates reports of abuse and neglect of children in residential care facilities.  Careline staff is available to provide information to the community and professionals.  The Careline is also available to employers in need of child protective services background checks. 

Juvenile Services provides and funds services annually to approximately 1,300 delinquent children and youth. In addition to contracting for a variety of juvenile justice programs and services – both residential and community based -- the Division operates the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (CJTS).

CJTS is a 240 bed, secure facility for male adjudicated delinquents committed to the Department by the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters.  The facility includes an intake unit, special needs units, general population buildings, extensive space for education and vocational programming and a transition unit for youth preparing for community re-entry.

All youth receive a comprehensive assessment, including mental health and substance abuse evaluation, to plan their individual program. Services focus on behavioral health treatment, education, vocational programming, therapeutic recreation and a strong emphasis on family involvement.

Mental Health ServicesDCF has statutory authority to provide for children's mental health services.  The Department operates the Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Center - North Campus in East Windsor and the  Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Center - South Campus in Middletyown.  Through Connecticut Community KidCare, the department also provides funding for a broad array of clinical and other services in the community, including Child Guidance Clinics, Extended Day Treatment Programs, Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services, Respite Care, Family Advocacy and Intensive Case Management.

Children and families can access state-operated or state-funded community services directly or through referrals from providers in the mental health system. Services are provided on a sliding scale, and the majority of service providers are affiliated with a variety of health insurance plans.

Medical Health and Wellbeing Services is responsible for assuring that children in its care and custody receive optimal health care.  The administration of health care is overseen centrally and carried out at the regional level through resource staff including a pediatrician, psychiatrist, registered nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners.  Health care standards, policies, procedures and programs are developed and implemented in accordance with the criteria established by the American Academy of Pediatrics, various federal mandates, state statutes and guidelines.  Case specific medical consultation is provided to DCF facilities, nursing, medical and social work staff on the medical care of children in care and custody of the Department.

Substance Use Services are provided to children and families in a variety of contexts.  In addition to services provided in DCF facilities, the department funds substance use prevention, intervention and treatment services in the community.  These treatment services include the following: home based, outpatient and residential treatment services for youth; immediate access for drug testing, evaluations and outpatient substance abuse treatment is available to primary caregivers involved in the department's child protective services through a DCF contract with a managed statewide network of substance use providers (Project SAFE); Supportive Housing for Families (SHF Referral); Substance Abuse Families at Risk (SAFAR). The Substance Use Division emphasizes the use of evidence based treatment models.

In addition, Substance use Specialists are part of Regional Resource Groups (RRG's) in each of the Department's area offices, providing consultation, assessment, coordination and training on substance abuse issues to enable DCF social workers to better serve families. 

Wilderness School: DCF runs the Wilderness School in East Hartland that provides a therapeutic wilderness challenge program for male and female adolescents who exhibit unacceptable behavior or have family difficulties. The program is designed to teach self-reliance and responsibility as well as to improve self-esteem. Evaluations have demonstrated that program graduates show improved self-concept and social functioning, and are less likely to break the law or be involved with drugs or alcohol.

The Wilderness School serves Connecticut adolescents between the ages of 13 and 16 who are referred by DCF social workers, school systems, youth service bureaus, counseling agencies, residential programs and other youth-serving agencies. The youngster must choose to attend. Applicants with histories of sexual offense, violent offense, or psychological or medical conditions that might pose problems on the course are assessed for appropriateness.

The Wilderness Challenge is a 20-day outdoor adventure program based on the American Outward Bound Schools’ model. Students participate in group activities, backpacking, rock climbing, service project or trail maintenance, a solo experience, and an 8.5-mile marathon. The program is a three-phase experience that closely involves the agency that has referred the youth. The phases include: orientation, which helps referring agencies identify and prepare students for the program; the 20-day wilderness challenge; and follow-up, which helps transfer the student’s positive learning experiences from the course to his or her home, school and community.

For further information, contact the Wilderness School at (860) 653-8059 or see their website.


Voluntary Services is a DCF operated program for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances, mental illnesses and/or substance dependency. This program is only for families who are not abusive or neglectful. Voluntary services emphasizes a community-based approach and attempts to coordinate service delivery across multiple agencies.  At the foundation of this program is the requirement that parents and families are involved in the planning and delivery of services to their child or youth. Voluntary Services reduces reliance on restrictive forms of treatment and out-of-home placement and ultimately, promotes positive development.

Voluntary Services Program Referrals: All referrals are made to the DCF Child Abuse and Neglect  Hotline (1-800-842-2288). The Hotline then forwards the information to the appropriate regional office for follow-up. Examples of who may suggest voluntary services include:

  • An investigator who has gone to the home and has not substantiated abuse or neglect;
  • Clinicians, psychiatric hospitals and schools;
  • Other clients; and
  • Juvenile court.

A child or youth and his/her parents must make the actual referral themselves.  Eligibility Criteria: A child or youth is eligible for voluntary services if:

  • The child or youth has a serious emotional or behavioral disorder.
  • The child or youth has an emotional disturbance and/or is substance dependent.
  • The child or youth’s treatment needs cannot be met through existing services available to the parent or guardian.
  • The child or youth’s disorder or disturbance can be treated within a reasonable time and within the resources available to the department at the time of application.
  • The child or youth has not reached the age of eighteen at the time of the referral.

A child or youth is not eligible for the program if:

  • The family of a child or youth has an active child protective services case with the department or is the subject of an investigation by the department because of an allegation of child abuse or neglect.
  • The child or youth’s primary diagnosis is mental retardation.
  • The child or youth has been arrested under the adult criminal system.
  • The child or youth requires placement because of special education needs.

Voluntary Services Available: Each region offers an array of services as part of this program. (Not all of the services listed are appropriate for every family.)

  • Intensive family preservation: A 10-12 week service in which a worker meets with the family two times a week and is available by beeper 24 hours a day.
  • After-care services: Services intended to help the family with a child or youth’s transition to the home after he/she is released from a residential facility.
  • Mentor services (support counselors)
  • In-home therapist (support specialists)
  • Intensive Behavior Management Training
  • Respite program: A worker goes to the home and spends time with the child or youth, allowing the parents some free time to address other demands or issues.
  • Extended Day Treatment Services
  • Out-of-Home Treatment

A child admitted into voluntary services is eligible for out-of-home placement if:

  • Documented attempts, such as in-home services and intensive outpatient care, have been unable to remediate the child or youth’s impairment.
  • An appropriate department-approved treatment program or facility is available.
  • The parent-child relationship will be maintained during and after implementation of the service plan.
  • There is an expectation that the child or youth will return to the family when the service plan is completed.

How to acquire Voluntary Services:

  • A family has sixty days to submit a completed application; the assigned DCF staff assists the family in completing the application. The assigned DCF staff has two weeks, once the application has been submitted, to determine eligibility.
  • Within one hundred and twenty days (4 months) after admitting a child or youth on a voluntary basis, DCF will petition the probate court for a determination as to whether continuation in the program is in the child’s best interest and, if so, if the individual care plan is appropriate. A probate court hearing must be held within 60 days of the petition (180 days after admission into the program).
  • No more than twelve months after a child or youth is admitted, the Commissioner will file a motion with the probate court requesting a hearing on the status of the child or youth.
  • The case closes when the initial goals established for the family and child or youth are met. This decision should be mutual between the family and the assigned DCF staff. Conflicts that cannot be resolved can be brought before the probate court.
  • The child or youth and family may be terminated from the program if they do not cooperate with the service plan or if the child or youth no longer benefits from the program. 

Content Last Modified on 7/1/2014 8:40:35 AM