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Monday, September 26, 2005

State working on replacing juvenile training school

The state is struggling to find a replacement for the corrupt Connecticut Juvenile Training School which cost the people of the state millions of dollars and lawmakers are wisely looking at the most cost effective way to replace to school.

From the Hartford Courant
State child welfare officials are rethinking plans to replace the troubled Connecticut Juvenile Training School with three smaller facilities scattered around the state.

The 220-bed school, which many liken to a medium-security youth prison, is scheduled to close by 2008 as Gov. M. Jodi Rell has ordered.

"That has not changed," said Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families.

But a preliminary plan to replace the training school in Middletown with two 45-bed, high-security facilities for boys and a separate 12-bed, high-security facility for girls is being reviewed.

Kleeblatt said the size of the proposed centers for boys may be reduced and there be more than two. The agency is also hiring a consultant to examine whether a high-security facility for girls is necessary or whether the girls can instead be housed in specialized foster care and group homes.

"The governor has made it clear that we are going to be flexible in all the details of this plan," Kleeblatt said.

A growing number of state legislators have joined child advocates in expressing concerns about the size and scope of the replacement centers, the rush of planning and the cost.

DCF officials estimate the new facilities will cost between $23 million and $40 million depending on whether existing buildings are renovated or new ones are built.

Legislators, still stinging from the failed $57 million dollar investment in the training school, want to avoid unnecessary spending and past mistakes. The training school was built on a construction "fast-track," which critics said didn't leave time to properly plan programs and doomed the facility from the start.

"I want to make sure we don't jump from one failed facility to another without doing the proper research and analysis," said Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg, D-Milford, who toured the training school Friday. "I don't think we've done that. Before we spend one penny more, we need to determine what kind of programming will best serve these kids."