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You Ask, We Answer: Why does the CT Dept. of Children and Families give debit cards to clients?

A recent report by Connecticut’s state auditors determined the Department of Children and Families may be foregoing federal reimbursement funding by not tracking purchases made with debit cards provided by the department to clients and families.

This was not the first time DCF has been faulted by the auditors for failure to document debit card usage. A 2015 audit leveled the same criticism and noted debit card purchases totaled $2.6 million over the course of three years and the department did not track receipts.

However, the DCF noted in its response to the audit, that it provides approximately 7,500 debit cards in a given year. The average debit card spending in 2014, for example, was $118.40.

In both audits, DCF said the tracking of receipts is too difficult and that DCF clients – those using the cards – would likely not comply with the order.

DCF workers operate in difficult social and family environments, oftentimes trying to find the best solutions for a family in crisis when there are few good options available. Gary Kleeblatt, communications director for DCF, says the debit cards are an important tool in helping families in crisis situations.

“The department has utilized them for years,” Kleeblatt said in an interview. “It is important for the state to have tools and resources available when families come to us in crisis.”

Kleeblatt says the debit cards allow social workers to help keep families together. If a parent is arrested or if their children have to be removed from their care, those children may have to be placed in a state institution or in foster care with non-relatives — something DCF tries to avoid by trying to place the children with extended family members.

If a relative can take the children but can’t afford the extra costs for food or a crib, for instance, DCF managers can approve a debit card with a pre-set amount of money to help the new caretakers buy necessary items.

If a relative can take the children but can’t afford the extra costs for food or a crib, for instance, DCF managers can approve a debit card with a pre-set amount of money to help the new caretakers buy necessary items.

Placing the children with a relative is less expensive and leads to better outcomes than placing them with non-relative foster parents or in institutional state care, Kleeblatt said.

“It is vital to our efforts to reduce placements and have these tools available to keep families together,” Kleeblatt said.

The debit cards are not used solely for child placement purposes, but also to ensure that a parent or caretaker can meet the child’s basic needs during difficult times.

The cards are “commodity coded” meaning they can’t be used to buy tobacco or alcohol. While the department does not monitor receipts from purchases, Kleeblatt says the social worker will go to the home to check on the child and confirm the necessary items were purchased.

Social workers will occasionally accompany the recipient of the debit card to the store to help with purchases, but overall that practice would involve too many employee hours and cost too much, according to DCF’s response to the 2015 audit.

The funds available on the debit cards must be used within 35 to 40 days after issuance. If there are remaining funds, the department recovers them.

For fiscal year 2019, DCF recovered $107,717.85 in unused debit card funds.

Connecticut has been attempting to keep more services based in the home — or in the case of DCF, in the family — rather than in state care or placing them in the foster care system.

The transition to relative foster care was spear-headed by former DCF Commissioner Joette Katz. Since 2010, Connecticut has seen a 19 percent decrease in the number of children placed in foster homes by keeping children with extended family members.

But the policy shift has not been without controversy. Several high-profile cases involving the death children placed with family members, combined with critical reports by the Office of Child Advocate, raised serious concern among lawmakers for how DCF places and monitors children — in particular, placing them with relatives who have criminal histories.

The practice of keeping children with family members has resulted in a 16 percent decrease in the number of children in state custody.

Kleeblatt says the debit cards are one way of trying to keep children out of the foster care system and state institutions. 

“It leads to an overall lower risk for the family,” Kleeblatt said, “and leads to fewer families being broken up.” 

Marc E. Fitch

Marc E. Fitch is the author of several books and novels including Shmexperts: How Power Politics and Ideology are Disguised as Science and Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFOs and Bigfoot. Marc was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and his work has appeared in The Federalist, American Thinker, The Skeptical Inquirer, World Net Daily and Real Clear Policy. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University. Marc can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Peter Szymonik
    October 8, 2019 @ 8:57 am

    DCF is a completely bloated and out of control nightmare of a state agency. It needs to be immediately shut down and a top down independent audit performed. DCF and this state’s broken and corrupt “family” courts cost $2,000,000,000+ year to operate. That’s $600+/year for very man woman and child in this state. For two state entities that separate children from their families for attorney and state profit and greed. How many more children and families will they destroy before something is finally done?


    • Broken family
      October 9, 2019 @ 9:03 am

      You hit the nail on the head. The DCF gets $ for children they place. Extremely corrupt! Nothing short of baby snatching and selling. Seemingly targeting teen moms! False allegation against my daughter brought DCF in to DESTROY our family. When I say false I mean the state run daycare where the accusations came from, their teacher was caught on video PHYSICALLY ABUSING my then mute grandbaby. The state employee/teacher was prosecuted found guilty in a court of law. (Basically got a slap on the wrist) DCF now in too deep for a hefty lawsuit at election time. My daughter’s Vindication could never happen! DCF continued to push forward to cover their asses. Their state drs/pockets to create a scenario. (They have now destroyed my daughter) I had my grandson for 1 month then the video of the abusive state employee emerged. By the way, during the time I had my grandson, I was not offered any debit card or financial assistance as stated in this article! As a matter of fact I was told because he’s kin to my I was expected to pay his expenses. I was not eligible for assistance. There was a push into foster care. I didn’t have established visitation. I was told you can file to be a foster parent and if you are approved you might get some financial assistance then. I was going to have to move and find a larger place to accommodate another child. This would take time. So my grandson remained in foster care for $ reasons, and I was not allowed visitation. They pushed “in the best interest of the child, because he has established the foster family as his own” (Because DCF cut off ties, no reason mind you, I’m a normal functioning contributor to society. They just had their own agenda.) My grandson has been turned over for open adoption. I pleaded for attorneys to add me “grandmother” in for visitation. They said sorry, that’s never been done before. I argued for them to make me the first one! Nope!
      Baby snatchers for profit. The system is corrupt. And I got that warning from an internal source. Where are the damn whistleblowers in this DCF district? It needs to be cleaned out!


  2. erika
    October 8, 2019 @ 12:08 pm

    DCF can’t manage their finances, they have clerical just data entering payments with no clue on if the invoice amount was approved, and they also give gift cards to Bobs. Why do they also pay for furniture and gift cards.


  3. Thad Stewart
    October 20, 2019 @ 7:30 am

    You cannot solve a problem by throwing money at it, the democrat way. A solid solution starts with education. Teaching our children to finish what they start and effectivly communicating with others, is a start. A course structured around family dynamics and financial responsibility would probably reenforce positive decision making. Continuing with the fiscal irresponsibility of the democratic mindset is the text book definition of insanity.


  4. Johanne Enevoldsen
    January 19, 2020 @ 12:04 pm

    We all share responsibility for protecting children. If you believe a child is being neglected, you should contact the DCF Hotline at 1-800-842-2288. Anonymous reports are accepted.


  5. Samantha Cacopardo
    June 7, 2020 @ 11:20 pm

    Hello, My boyfriend and I have been dealing with severe corruption during our entire DCF case by multiple employees of DCF and by DCF in generally. We have been looking for assistance and answers every where. We recently learned that we can conduct a petition to have our local DCF office audited to show and prove DCF’s corruption of our case. We were hoping that we could get pointed into the right direction of how to conduct this process and who to address the petition too and any other on this subject you could provide for the state of Connecticut. Please and thank you.


    • Attorney Linda Holmes
      September 24, 2021 @ 5:53 pm

      What is the reason that dcf took away your children or cited you? Have you and yOur boyfriend passed All ReCent drug tests and followed up with everything the courts have mandated? Do you show up for visits if they are being permitted? Also do you have a stable EnviroNment for your children? If the answer is yes, then you must hire an attorney ans the attorney will file an Appeal on your beHalf and eventually a petition to overtUrn the case, bUt it will not be granted unless you have taken and followed all the steps and ruLes of the courts that dcf os requirEd to make you foLlow.


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