Considering a Connecticut ‘Crisis’ during Adoption Month
A report on “Connecticut’s Unspoken Crisis,” regarding “at-risk” or already “disconnected” youth and young adults, has illuminated problems centered on one-fifth of those ages 14–26. Dalio Education and its consultants spanned sectors to gather data, engage advisors, and convene a series of discussions around this significant report.
November — Adoption Awareness Month — is an occasion to focus on a particularly precarious subset of young people: those who have experienced abuse or neglect, placing them in foster care or with that possibility, if their families cannot provide sufficient safety and support.
Attending to older youth (ages 14–17) before they become “disconnected” young adults is certainly key. Prevention and early intervention, from birth and early childhood, are important, well before adolescence. But we shouldn’t give up on any young person, including those who come under juvenile courts for child protection.
Those numbers have fallen in recent years, amid not only the pandemic but greater awareness of the value of family preservation, along with efforts to counter disproportionate effects of poverty and racism in child welfare systems. Between 2019 and 2022, Connecticut saw a 30% drop in the number of children under court protection — from 10,478 to 7,217. Children are increasingly placed in families rather than institutions, part of a longer-term trend in our state.
Problems beneath the Numbers
Yet recent years have seen surges in:
- Mental health concerns, for young people and parents alike, including suicidal ideation and often inadequate treatment capacity;
- Substance use, e.g., opioids — a frequent source of child neglect (far more common than outright abuse). A committee is reviewing ways to spend opioid settlement funds to remediate aspects of the epidemic.
- Chronic school absenteeism, sometimes from parents’ “educational neglect,” fueling truancy among older youth, lower graduation rates, less learning and preparation for employment;
- Youth without stable housing, including in New Haven. According to the New Haven Independent, there is “a spike in youth homelessness that district leaders attribute to…