Office of the Child Advocate
At a Glance
JEANNE MILSTEIN, Child Advocate
Mickey Kramer, Associate Child Advocate
Julie McKenna, Assistant Child Advocate
Moira O’Neill, Assistant Child Advocate
Heather Panciera, Assistant Child Advocate
Faith Vos Winkel, Assistant Child Advocate
Denise Scruggs, Administrative Assistant
Janet Santiago, Processing Tech
Established – 1995
Statutory authority – CGS §46a-13k, et seq.
Central office - 18-20 Trinity Street, 5th floor,
Hartford, CT 06106
Number of employees - 8
Recurring operating expenses – $693,343
The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) speaks for Connecticut’s children. The OCA was created in 1995 to be an independent voice for children rather than an administrator of programs. OCA’s mission is to oversee the care and protection of Connecticut’s children and to advocate for their well-being. OCA is committed to ensuring that all children receive the care and supports they need.
The statutory responsibilities include evaluating the procedures for and the delivery of state-funded services to children; investigating inquiries or complaints regarding children; recommending changes in state policy; conducting programs of public education; legislative advocacy and proposing systemic reform; reviewing conditions and procedures of all public and private facilities where children are placed; providing training and technical assistance to children’s attorneys; initiating or intervening in court cases on behalf of children; serving on the Child Fatality Review Panel and conducting a fatality review on the circumstances of the death of a child due to unexpected or unexplained causes and to facilitate development of prevention strategies to address identified trends and patterns of risk and to improve coordination of services for children and families in the state.
During its eight-year history, OCA has brought about significant change for Connecticut families and children. OCA helps families by educating and informing them about services for children, coaching them through various public systems, reviewing individual cases, advocating for children at risk, and addressing broad public policy issues. These reviews and investigations not only help the OCA address individual problems, but also assist the OCA in identifying the systems issues that need to be addressed. The activities of the OCA benefit the children of this state, and serve as a catalyst for policy and legislative change.
The OCA responded to a record number of citizen inquiries and complaints, and we assisted a record number of citizens and providers to navigate government and other public agencies and social service systems. This is particularly useful for the growing number of situations referred to OCA that involve children with complex needs who require support and assistance from multiple agencies and professional disciplines. In addition, a case management system has been developed to document calls and activities. In the future the agency will be able to identify system trends and issues that can in turn serve as a catalyst for policy and legislative improvements.
The tragic deaths of six and a half-month infant Ezramicah H., and 12-year-old Joseph Daniel S. reminded us of the vulnerability of children served by the child protection system. The Office of the Child Advocate and the Child Fatality Review Panel investigated and released in-depth reports on two child fatalities and reviewed approximately 15 child fatalities per month. This attention to, and investigation of, situations where the actions or inactions of agencies may have played a relevant role with a particular child and/or family has helped prevent future tragedy by identifying risks to children and advocating for specific system changes and prevention strategies.
One of OCA’s primary goals in accordance with CT Gen. Stat. §46a- was to review and monitor those facilities where children are placed. OCA assesses the appropriateness, safety and quality of supports and services to children in congregate care settings. OCA was compelled to spend several months investigating and monitoring the new Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys due to the severity of allegations and findings of program, treatment and safety deficiencies. In addition, we have addressed the chaos created by the premature closure of Long Lane School, Connecticut’s only public facility for adjudicated delinquent girls.
The Office of the Child Advocate is committed to regular reviews of its current operating procedures aimed at reducing waste and increasing efficiency. The OCA has implemented operating policies and procedures and has computerized office operations. There is more reliance on email than regular mail in an effort to reduce waste of paper.
The Child Advocate named the following priorities for the next fiscal year:
· Initiate legal action in appropriate cases.
· Review and monitor children's facilities to assess the appropriateness and quality of supports and services to children in congregate care settings.
· Educate the public on children's issues and OCA's work.
· Develop and implement strategies to improve the system on the basis of citizens' concerns as voiced in calls to OCA.
· Create a report that shows trends through information that is gained through the new ombudsman system.
· Enhance capacity of facility review mandates of the OCA by hiring an individual for the newly created facility review position.
· Determine the appropriateness of quality of supports/services offered to children in congregate settings.
Information Reported as Required by State Statute
The Office of the Child Advocate has developed an affirmative action plan which complies with Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-70 through 46a-78.
As mandated by Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46a-13k(f) and 46a-13q(a), the Office of the Child Advocate submitted an annual report for the period of July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003.