Before he issues his next press release denouncing the Trump administration -- there were several more this week -- Governor Malloy might negotiate a state budget with the General Assembly. For while there are hundreds of politicians around the country denouncing the president every day, the governor is the only one in charge of a state that is both without a budget and sinking fast relative to other states.
Before he issues another such press release, the governor also might read the state police affidavit for this week’s arrest of a 24-year-old Stafford woman, a heroin addict with three young children who has been charged with manslaughter in the death in April of her 3-year-old son, who apparently ingested methadone his mother kept loose around the house.
The Stafford case is similar to a case in Plymouth in 2014 in which a 2-year-old girl died from ingesting drugs kept around the house by her drug-abusing mother, who also was charged with manslaughter.
The affidavit in the Stafford case says the woman’s home was squalid, with clutter and animal droppings everywhere. The affidavit adds that after both anonymous complaints and a complaint by a school nurse about ill treatment of the woman’s children, the home had been visited many times by social workers from the state Department of Children and Families. It’s not clear what the social workers saw, but no corrective action was taken.
The report of the state child advocate’s office on the Plymouth case recorded social worker visits to a squalid home, abuse of the children, and evidence of the mother’s mental illness that could be seen by everyone who knew her. But again no corrective action was taken.
In the Plymouth case DCF acknowledged error and shuffled personnel. The department says tersely that it has reviewed the Stafford case, providing no details. But mistakes by social workers are not the big problem with such cases. The bigger problem remains one of policy that is yet to be addressed by anyone in authority.
That is, where do mentally ill or drug-addicted, unemployed, or only marginally employed women obtain the financing to live such irresponsible lives? How much government money facilitates this?
The report on the Plymouth case found that welfare stipends were involved. The affidavit in the Stafford case says little about the woman’s sources of income, but it would be unusual if an unmarried woman with three young children was not receiving various forms of government assistance, even though the affidavit says she was known throughout town as a heroin addict.
The Plymouth and Stafford cases and others like them suggest that Connecticut has made a policy decision to subsidize such destructive behavior by unmarried women with children even when the children may be at risk, in the belief that it is more humane and cheaper to leave the children with an awful parent than to remove them to foster or group homes until the parent can straighten out - cheaper than strictly conditioning financial aid on avoiding destructive behavior.
But this policy is not more humane and cheaper. Its inhumanity is demonstrated not just by the dramatic child fatalities it produces but also by its less dramatic but still quantifiable consequences - the educational failure, the physical and mental illness, the criminal trouble, and the lifelong unhappiness of neglected and abused children.
From DCF to schools, hospitals, courts, and prisons, this policy actually may cost Connecticut a couple billion dollars or more each year. Changing this policy might save a lot of money for a state government the policy has helped push into insolvency.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.