State officials charged with caring for children in need regularly travel out of state to visit children placed outside of Connecticut due to special circumstances.
The out-of-state trips, many lasting overnight with a return flight the next day, are mandated once every two months by a 2004 law.
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz has reduced the number of out-of-state placements from 364 to 131 since joining Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration in January 2011, according to a spokesman.
According to DCF travel records obtained by Raising Hale through a Freedom of Information Act request, between Jan. 1 and March 30 of this year DCF made 128 travel reservations for a total cost of $79,924.
“Under Commissioner Katz the number of children out of state has been reduced by nearly two-thirds in just 18 months due in large part to her policy that out of state placements receive her personal approval,” said DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt. “Children still can be placed out of state but only if there is a demonstration that the child’s treatment needs cannot be met in Connecticut.”
Kleeblatt said the legislature passed the law “to ensure that the Department maintains regular contact with the child out of state.”
According to the Connecticut Mirror, Katz’s policy on out-of-state placements prompted mixed reactions last summer. The Mirror reported the department will instead place more children in two state-run facilities, Connecticut Children’s Place and Riverview Hospital.
At least two of the trips detailed in the travel documents were not related to the eight-year-old law.
In one case, a DCF employee escorted a child in the agency’s care to the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Kleeblatt, the department hopes to place the child with a relative in the U.S. territory.
A second trip also didn’t fit into the standard framework of a DCF employee visiting a child out of state.
DCF paid for a five-night stay at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards during the National Conference on LGBT Equality.
The agency made the reservation and paid the costs for a foster child in its care, according to Kleeblatt.
“The trip to the conference in Maryland was considered to be important for the youth’s decision to join the United States military in the aftermath of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Kleeblatt said. “The conference offered the young man a chance to learn from current and retired military personnel regarding their experiences and was instrumental in his decision to enlist in the Marines, in which he is currently serving.”