Joette Katz already had a plum assignment in state government as a Connecticut Supreme Court judge and could have finished her career there. But when Gov. Dan Malloy asked her to consider taking over the troubled Department of Children and Families (DCF) in 2011, she opted for a dramatic career change. “I was ready for a challenge,” she says, “and I certainly got it.” When she assumed the role, the agency was mired in a federally mandated improvement plan for having failed a 2009 review of child welfare requirements. Katz sought to bring back foster children living in out-of-state facilities and move children from in-state institutional or congregate care to family and community settings.
When Malloy announced that he was reappointing Katz to another four-year term this past December, it was easy to see why. The agency has successfully completed its federal improvement plan. It has adopted a new approach to investigating child welfare cases that only separates children from their families as a measure of last resort. Fewer children live in group homes or out-of-state facilities. More children live with relatives or someone they know. Katz is proud of the progress her agency has made; now she hopes to increase adoption rates. “Then DCF is out of their lives.”