- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Department of Children and Families is ending certain restraints used with boys and girls at the state’s juvenile detention facilities, the child welfare agency announced Monday.

DCF said it is taking other steps to improve care, including expanding clinical staff to the second shift when youth are out of school, and requiring clinical counseling sessions when a youth is in seclusion.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the steps follow a report from a national expert in juvenile justice and mental health.

The plan also comes days after the state’s Child Advocate Sarah Eagan released an investigation into safety issues at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys and the neighboring Pueblo Unit for girls in Middletown. It found that youths have been subjected to unlawful and repeated use of isolation and restraints, while officials haven’t adequately prevented suicide attempts and injuries.

Both facilities are run by DCF.

“Our staff wants to improve how they provide care and treatment for these youths, so these action steps are welcome changes to improve clinical treatment and avoid the crisis interventions that detract from the therapeutic environment the youth require,” Katz said in a written statement.

The 135-Connecticut Juvenile Training School is the state’s only secure facility for boys who have been deemed delinquent and committed to DCF. The 12-bed Pueblo Unit is the state’s only detention facility for delinquent juvenile girls.

The child advocate’s office found more than two dozen documented acts of youths trying to injure themselves at the two centers between June 2014 and February 2015. For the yearlong period ending July 1 of this year, the office also found at least 532 physical restraints and 134 uses of mechanical restraints such as handcuffs and shackles.

State law requires restraints be used only to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the person or others. But the child advocate’s office said video tapes and incident reports showed restraints were repeatedly used for behavior management.

DCF’s plan calls for eliminating the use of face-down restraints and the use of mechanical restraints over the next six months, except when a youth is being transported across the campus. It also calls for developing individual case plans to focus on ways to avoid the youth from being restrained or secluded.

Two of the unions that represent front-line workers at both facilities criticized the child advocate’s report for referencing successful vocation and academic programming taking place.

“There is a comprehensive continuum of services that include counseling, medical, recreation, art therapy, music therapy, SAT prep and testing and career fairs,” the unions said in a joint statement released Monday. “Failing to include or recognize these services in their report is unacceptable.”


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