We aren’t doing right by our most vulnerable youth — the runaways, and the young people who are homeless. For all its resources, the state of Connecticut has less than 25 beds available for young people who are under the age of 18 and in crisis. Stacey Violante Cote, director of the Teen Legal Advocacy Project at the Center for Children’s Advocacy, heads a work group that studies homeless youth in the state. The group recently released a report, “Opening Doors for Youth,” that said the state’s youth services are geared mostly for young people who are clients of state agencies such as the Department of Children and Families, or they are among the handful of young people who occupy the state’s few slots in shelters. That leaves out most of the young people who are homeless in Connecticut, who are uniquely skilled at staying under the radar.
Concerns about the use of shackles on juveniles in court have prompted two lawmakers, Rep. Bruce Morris of Norwalk and Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven, to introduce legislation to limit the use of restraints. The proposals are in response to advocates’ concerns that juveniles are often shackled when they appear in court unless their attorneys ask that the restraints, which can include handcuffs, leg irons and belly chains, be removed. Morris, who chairs the General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said shackling is demeaning and can damage a child’s sense of self-worth. “It says, ‘I don’t trust you enough that you will honor the dignity of a court. You’re unmanageable,’” he said.
Plans are underway to provide thousands of individuals under age 21 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with home-based interventions and other services through the state’s Medicaid program beginning Jan. 1. “This is absolutely huge,” said Jennifer Bogin, director of Autism Spectrum Services for the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS). “Many children already get quality programming during the school day. But it’s rare when that programming is brought into the home.
Three months after a new children’s advocacy office opened at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Alice Rosenthal has conquered bedbugs, kept utilities from being shut off, and helped get adequate school support for a kid with severe medical needs. “We’re off to a fast, great start,” said Rosenthal, the attorney on site for the venture. The office is a partnership between the hospital and the Hartford-based Center for Children’s Advocacy, a nonprofit that advocates for the legal rights of children who suffer from abuse, neglect or lack of access to critical services. The partnership takes a holistic approach to care by tackling not only kids’ medical problems, but the issues at home and school that might be preventing them from getting well. Rosenthal, representing the Center for Children’s Advocacy, works with the hospital staff to identify and resolve those issues.
Selenia Velez remembers the near-daily phone calls from the pre-school, alerting her that her 2-year-old son had acted out aggressively and needed to be picked up immediately. The calls went on for months, as Velez, 27, of Hartford, and her husband bounced between the pre-school and their son’s pediatrician, who recommended that they take him to a psychiatrist for an evaluation. But the psychiatrist was booked and held them at bay, as Velez watched her son’s behavior deteriorate. “We just felt hopeless,” the mother of four recalls of her oldest son, now 7. “It was one of the most heartbreaking things you can go through as a mother.
Josue, 15, was born to a 12‐year‐old mother. Exposed to domestic violence and abuse, he struggled in school early on and received a special education evaluation in Grade 4 that found weaknesses in reading, math and writing.