- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2016

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A federal judge in Connecticut on Thursday approved a revised agreement that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said will forge a path toward ending decades of federal oversight of the state’s child welfare agency.

The plan for exiting court oversight was approved in Bridgeport. It replaces a previous exit plan filed in 2004. Under the revised arrangement, the number of goals the state Department of Children and Families must meet is reduced from 22 to 10.

The new agreement, which also sets a minimum for DCF’s budget, still requires approval by the General Assembly. The new regular legislative session will convene in January.

“Trends are moving in the right direction,” said Malloy, contending Connecticut has reduced the number of children in state care, increased the number of placements with relatives and reduced the state’s reliance of placing children in institutional settings.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said while progress has been made over the years, Malloy’s administration has exaggerated its claims. He said Connecticut was already compliant with 16 of the 22 performance measurements with DCF Commissioner Joette Katz took office in 2011. He said it was “ludicrous” to celebrate now.

“Connecticut families cannot ignore that the six measures in which DCF continues to fail are critical elements that directly relate to child safety,” he said.

DCF’s federal oversight issues date to 1989, when a New York-based children’s advocacy group, Children’s Rights, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of children in state custody or at risk of entering state custody in Connecticut. It identified numerous problems, such as children being left in dangerous situations and the state’s failure to move children into adoptive homes.

Ira Lustbader, the litigation director of Children’s Rights, said, “without question, Connecticut is making important strides” to help children and families in the child welfare system. With an end to court oversight “now within reach,” he said the timing will depend on DCF’s performance on the final 10 goals.

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