Supporters of the New Haven Regional Children’s Probate Court, during a 10th anniversary celebration, hailed the court as a model of innovation that has been replicated statewide to give thousands of Connecticut children a chance at a better life.
“The court was born out of an inspiration and is an innovation – a success by all measures, thanks to the hard work of the judges, staff, social workers and many others who have committed themselves to the well-being of the young people who are our future,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman told the gathering on June 25.
Branford-North Branford Probate Judge Frank Forgione, the NHRCPC’s founding administrative judge, described its opening in July 2004: “We were immediately met with a deluge of people and applications that we did not foresee. It was a great reception for us, and great to have the community acknowledge that there was a valuable service that they could obtain here at 873 State St. in New Haven.”
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, who was a state senator at the time, recalled the court’s early successes. “Before this court was founded, all too often children were moved from home to home in foster care, and they also failed in our classrooms,” she said. “Within two years of the court’s establishment, every child placed with a guardian still lived with that guardian, a three-fold improvement. Four out of five children who went through the court saw their grades in school improve. With greater numbers of non-traditional families in society, these cases have only grown in complexity but have not diminished in their urgency. That’s why it’s so wonderful that this project, which is now a national prototype, has expanded statewide.”
The NHRCPC, which won the Council of Government’s prestigious Innovations Award in 2006, handled more than 15,000 adoptions, guardianships and other matters during its first decade.
The court serves families in Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Hamden, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange and West Haven. It provides a supportive court process and uses a model that emphasizes family involvement, ongoing support from experienced social workers and cooperative planning among the parties to help families maintain stable and safe homes for their children.
“Being the first of the six regional children’s courts, New Haven has always been at the leading edge of improving how the Probate Courts handle children’s cases. They built the model,” Probate Court Administrator Paul Knierim said. “The judges and staff in New Haven have reason to be proud of their work because they’ve made a difference in the lives of so many children and families.”
Four other judges in the New Haven area participate in the court with New Haven Judge John A. Keyes, the administrative judge, and Judge Forgione: East Haven-North Haven Judge Michael R. Brandt, Hamden-Bethany Judge Edward C. Burt Jr., West Haven Judge Mark J. DeGennaro and Milford-Orange Judge Beverly K. Streit-Kefalas.
Guests at the reception also included several guardians and their children and Sen. Martin M. Looney, Sen. Edward Meyer, Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg and Commissioner Joette Katz of the Department of Children and Families.