'Forever' foster homes needed in Eastern Connecticut
By DON BOND, The Bulletin
Jaclyn, 14, a trauma victim, needs a female-oriented home that can provide her with unconditional love and support.
Felix, 13, was placed back in the foster care system after his adoptive family gave up on him. He is in need of a home that allows him to have a connection with his twin brother, from whom he is currently separated.
Both teens are among 10 children — two girls and eight boys between the ages of 9 and 17 — for whom the Family and Community Ties Foster Care Program is seeking long-term, or “forever,” foster homes in Windham, New London and Middlesex counties.
The program, headquartered in Willimantic, is one of the newer programs of Community Health Resources, one of the largest mental health providers in the state. It was established in August 2012 in response to an initiative from state Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz to improve foster care in Connecticut.
Katz was an associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court and also served as administrative judge of the state’s appellate court system before being chosen by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to head the Department of Children and Families. She made the placement of more children from group facilities to foster homes a priority of her administration of DCF.
“We are making progress in that effort,” Gary Kleeblatt, communications director for DCF, said. “In January 2011, 67 percent of children in the DCF program were in foster homes. That number has risen to 76 percent in February 2013.”
Now, only 23 percent of the children in the department’s care remain in congregate settings, he said.
“While more progress is needed in this effort, we’re proud of the work of our staff,” Kleeblatt said.
The Community Ties Foster Care Program allows the agency to place children now living in residential facilities or group homes in what could become long-term foster homes, according to Kelli Gustavson, a case manager in the program whose focus area is Windham County.
Gustavson said many of the children have been in the foster care program for several years, and for some of them, most of their young lives.
“Many of the children we’re seeking to place have been affected by abuse or neglect,” Gustavson said. “But, because of this, we have support programs available for the children and for the foster families who agree to care for them.”
That support includes weekly visits by the case manager and a home therapist. It also includes comprehensive training, around-the-clock, on-call therapeutic support, tax-free financial stipends and free medical coverage for all foster children in the program.
“We can respond to a problem at one of our foster homes at any hour of the day or night,” Gustavson said.