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Best Interest of the Girl
August 7, 2013 permalink
Connecticut is building a secure facility for girls to prevent them from running away. Instead of bars, they could consider leaving families alone. Girls living with mom and dad rarely need bars to keep them home.
DCF Plans Secure Facility For Girls At Risk Of Running Away
The state Department of Children and Families will establish a locked treatment center for teenage girls in its care who are at risk of running away, DCF officials said Tuesday.
The facility could open next year. DCF has identified at least nine girls as potential residents, including one who was among five from the state recently recovered by the FBI during a nationwide sex-trafficking sweep that led to 150 arrests.
The agency is renovating a building at the former Riverview Hospital. DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said Tuesday that the facility would house 10 to 12 girls ages 13 to 18 who are likely to run away from state treatment centers and end up in a potentially dangerous environment.
"Some of these girls have been adjudicated delinquents and they need to be treated in a facility that can meet their needs," Katz said. "Some of the girls have long-standing traumatic issues and they run. They have no reason to trust anyone, so they run."
The girl who was rescued in the sexual trafficking sweep had been in DCF care in the southern part of the state. The department declined to identify the type of DCF setting she was in. Two others among the five had previously been in DCF care.
The plan will transform one building at the Albert J. Solnit Center on River Road into a secure treatment center with classrooms. On average, girls would stay about six months, and the center will be supervised by the director of the nearby Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a similar but much larger facility for boys.
Services will include counseling, substance abuse treatment, education, recreation and other types of therapy, DCF said.
Riverview Hospital was the only state-run children's psychiatric hospital in New England and one of only 10 in the United States. Riverview had long been criticized for treatment costs that amount to $585,000 a year per child, and is viewed by some advocates as a holdover from the so-called institutional era. It was reorganized as the Solnit Center with a greater emphasis on therapy a couple of years ago.
Depending on a renovation schedule and funding, the facility could open in spring 2014. Renovations and security improvements are expected to cost a few million dollars, said Katz.
Katz said a small number of girls need to receive psychiatric care in a secure facility until they are substantially participating in a state program. As they become more involved with a treatment plan, they become less likely to run away and end up in dangerous situations, she said.
"In my opinion we have a long-standing gap in services for what we call at-risk girls," Katz said. "Right now there are about 160 girls in the state who we have identified as having been victims of sex trafficking. And those are just the ones we know about."
"I wish I didn't need to fill these beds, but I could fill them tomorrow," Katz said.
Acting Child Advocate Mickey Kramer said Tuesday the facility seems to be addressing a deficiency in treatment for a small population of teenagers.
"This is an old discussion that has been going on for a long time," Kramer said. "What we have for years been struggling with in the state is an adequate continuum of services that starts much younger than having girls become locked up."
She said any concerns from her office have more to do with how the facility would affect the availability of state resources rather than with the state's specific plan.
"We still need to build up a lot better capacity in the community," Kramer said. "We have to figure out what are we not doing right for these girls."
In the past decade, DCF has placed girls in privately run locked facilities or placed them in programs outside the state.
"Historically a lot of these girls were sent out of the state, which was both more costly and not good for them in terms of reunions with their families," Katz said.
Services for a child in state custody typically cost about $350 a day, but out-of-state costs can reach $550 a day.
Katz said the state views the locked treatment center as one step in the many levels of services provided to teenage girls.
"This is part of a continuum of services," she said. "If you can get these girls stabilized to the point they can build some trust, the need for the locked facility diminishes. They can be transferred out to one of our private facilities that are not locked when we don't have to worry about them running away."
Source: Hartford Courant