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Connecticut’s anti-discrimination agency has asked the Department of Children and Families to reply to charges that it discriminates against its African-American and Hispanic employees and clients. The state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities wants DCF to respond in time for a September public hearing on the matter. CHRO Executive Director Cynthia Watts Elder, in a May 18 letter to DCF Commissioner Kristine Ragaglia, raises questions about the fairness of DCF’s promotional and disciplinary procedures. She also asks Ragaglia to respond to allegations that a disproportionate number of minority clients have children removed from their homes, and that urban families are more likely than suburban families to have children taken by DCF. Watts Elder also asks if DCF expected that its workers meet certain quotas when they sought to terminate parental rights to custody of their children. Watts Elder took action after the commission heard allegations from current and former DCF staff members, among others, at its May 11 meeting. DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said the department is compiling the information for CHRO. “We’re going to work closely with CHRO to respond to their concerns, and if we find that some of these matters have validity, we’ll address them,” he said. “We take matters of discrimination very seriously, and in fact are proud of our record in hiring and in promotion of employees,” Kleeblatt said. He said that in the year ending June 30, 1999, 42.5 percent of the hires and 40.7 percent of those promoted at DCF were minorities. Kleeblatt said there are bound to be some complaints in an agency the size of DCF, which employs 3,400 people. DCF substantially increased the number of employees in recent years as the result of a 1991 consent decree in Juan F. v. O’Neill. The agreement called for the department to beef up its budget and its staff for better service to the state’s abused and neglected children.

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