The death of an infant in foster care and other complaints have prompted lawmakers to take a close look at how well the state Department of Children and Families is working. But the answer to that varies dramatically depending on who you ask.
Last May, a seven-month old infant named Michael Brown died from blunt force trauma to the head while in foster care. His caretaker was Department of Children and Families employee Suzanne Listro, who was investigated twice for abusing her own child.
But those charges were never substantiated, so they weren't entered into the DCF database, and they didn't come up when she was reviewed as a foster parent.
DCF Commissioner Susan Hamilton became emotional as she discussed Brown's death before lawmakers. She said her agency has made a number of changes in the five months since.
"Nothing can or will take away from that effect that that death had on me, our entire agency, and obviously his family, and I will continue to hold myself, my staff and the system accountable for any changes that are needed."
Now all abuse allegations against DCF employees, substantiated or not, go into the agency's database. And beginning this month, an outside contractor is reviewing DCF employees for foster care licenses.
But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told lawmakers that long-standing problems within the agency remain.
"We've demanded that DCF implement the same reforms again and again and again, only to see our demands either disregarded or rejected. More often ignored than declined."
Blumenthal and state Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein complained of chronic mismanagement at DCF and called for new leadership.
Legislators plan to hold more hearings on the agency to develop recommendations for the next legislative session.
Meanwhile, Suzanne Listro is due back in court on Friday. She pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and has been out on bond.