Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who was re-elected in November, announced this week that he will re-appoint Joette Katz to lead the state’s Department of Children and Families, which oversees both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems for the state.
“Commissioner Katz has proven that she is someone with the strong leadership capabilities that are required for this important position, along the compassion to see that the most vulnerable among us are protected,” Malloy said in a statement about the reappointment.
Katz, a former associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, was appointed in 2011 and has presided over a 16 percent decrease in the number of children in DCF care. The use of group home care has declined by more than 50 percent and the use of out-of-state placements dropped by 96 percent, according to Malloy’s statement.
But Katz may face a difficult reappointment debate with the legislature. Some legislators are concerned that the closure of group care options has been abrupt, and the state’s child advocate is investigating the deaths of nine children who died in 2014 after recent contact between DCF and their families.
In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez announced this week that her tourism director, Monique Jacobson, would succeed Yolanda Deines as secretary of the Department of Children, Youth and Families.
As in Connecticut, the decision is not without some controversy. Some legislators have lined up in support of the governor’s choice, while others have questioned the appointment of a person with no background in child welfare.
Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla told News 13 today that he’s against Jacobson’s appointment.
“They need to have a core experience in the core competency of the department that they are leading and Ms. Jacobson does not,” said State Senator Michael Padilla, in an interview with News 13. “Unless you’ve had that experience as a social worker, that’s going to be very difficult to be effective in that role,” said Sen. Padilla.