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DCF commissioner Joette Katz to leave post

HARTFORD – Joette Katz, the former Supreme Court judge who left the judiciary to take the helm at the troubled state Department of Children and Families, ...

HARTFORD – Joette Katz, the former Supreme Court judge who left the judiciary to take the helm at the troubled state Department of Children and Families, will leave her post in two months’ time, according to an email distributed to DCF employees on Friday and obtained by FOX61 News.

Katz was tapped by Governor Dannel Malloy after his election in 2010, and took over the troubled agency in 2011. The department was under federal oversight after failing a 2009 review of child welfare requirements. Katz began policies designed to bring foster children living out of state back to Connecticut, and to move children from institutional care to family and community settings.

The text of the email sent to DCF employees on Friday is provided below:

Two months from today, the state will have a new Governor and DCF will have a new Commissioner.  This past summer I began thinking about my future and concluded that I would not seek to be reappointed by Governor Malloy’s successor.  I want to be very clear that my decision, which came after much soul searching, is not a reflection of how difficult or challenging the job is or out of concern that the new Governor would say “thanks, but no thanks.”  The job is indeed challenging and difficult. It has also been incredibly rewarding.  The Department has received national recognition on a variety of fronts, and we have a great deal to be very proud of.  The system is not perfect and by no means have we been perfect; a child welfare agency is but one part of a very complex and taxed child welfare system. But I digress.
I made the decision to not seek reappointment because I strongly believe that the Department needs a honeymoon phase.  You know that phase-when each of you thinks the other person is fantastic and everything is new, fresh and exciting!!   I certainly had the benefit of a very long one -4 years to be precise, when we got major legislation passed, changed practice and garnered great support and much good will at the LOB.  Since then, there certainly have been pockets of support, our good work has continued, our practice shifts have grown strong roots, the Governor and OPM secretary have remained very supportive and the Federal Court has been hugely complimentary but a new Commissioner will have his/her own chance to feel that welcome and appreciation for his/her willingness to oversee what has been often termed “by far, the most difficult job in state government.”  That good will absolutely will trickle down to all of you and the Department as a whole-the secondary beneficiaries of the honeymoon!!
This is not my last missive. I will continue to report out on all our progress, new and improved policy, etc.  So for the next two months, my foot remains on the pedal and my fingers on my keyboard.

Katz dealt with several controversial cases that kept DCF in the headlines, including the death of Matthew Tirado, an autistic teen who was starved and abused and died one month after DCF closed its case file on him.  After that and other cases, state Senate Majority Leader Len Fasano repeatedly called for Katz’ resignation.

Katz is the first state department head to announce her departure since the election of Democrat Ned Lamont. The 2-month date would fall on January 9th, the opening of the legislative session, when Malloy will end his term and Lamont will be sworn in. It is not clear if she directly informed Governor Malloy or Governor-elect Lamont of her decision.