Leading the State’s Services for Children and Families
Susan I. Hamilton, MSW ’92, JD
Susan I. Hamilton Commissioner, Department of Children and Families (DCF). Commissioner Hamilton manages and oversees all operations of DCF, a consolidated child welfare agency with statewide mandates including prevention, child protection, juvenile justice and children’s behavioral health. She leads a staff of over 3500 employees and has responsibility for an annual budget of over $900 million. As Commissioner, she oversees the operations of 3 state-run facilities, including a secure facility for juvenile justice youth, a psychiatric hospital for children and a residential treatment program; provides licensing and contractual oversight for over 300 private providers, including community-based, congregate care and foster care providers, who work in partnership with DCF to promote the safety, permanency and well-being of Connecticut’s children; and collaborates with key stakeholders, including the legislature, sister state agencies, providers, communities, advocacy organizations, federal partners, and the children and families served in setting and advancing the agency’s vision and goals.
What other leadership positions do you currently hold or have you held in the past?
Prior to being appointed as Commissioner, I was appointed to serve as Under Secretary at the Office of Policy Management (OPM) from January, 2006-June, 2007, where I assisted in developing the Governor’s budget recommendations and drafted and negotiated all legislation needed to implement these recommendations. In this role, I served as the leader of OPM’s legislative team and worked in collaboration with the Governor’s legislative staff to promote the Governor’s legislative initiatives. Prior to serving as Under Secretary, I held various leadership positions within DCF for over 12 years, including Director of DCF’s first in-house Legal Division for approximately 8 years.
What inspired you to become a social worker?
I have always wanted to help people who may not have been as fortunate as I have been and have always held the strong belief that there are strengths and capacities in people that sometimes they can’t see or appreciate. I greatly value and respect the strengths and resiliency in individuals, families, communities and systems, and social work as a profession embraces these core values along with the fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of every person. I chose social work as a profession to promote these core values, to help ensure social justice and to empower people to advocate for and support themselves and others even in the face of adversity and hardship.
How has your education at the UConn SSW prepared you for your career? Was there one person or learning experience that had an impact on you?
I was able to benefit from the MSW, JD joint degree program at the UConn SSW and the UConn Law School, and this unique opportunity and learning experience enabled me to develop the skills and knowledge I needed to effectively serve in both a social work and legal capacity at DCF. More specifically, as a joint degree student, I was able to participate in the UConn Law School’s Disability Law Clinic, which gave me the opportunity to represent parents and children in juvenile court. That was my first exposure to DCF and its critical mission of protecting children, improving child and family well-being and preserving families.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment as a leader?
During my time as Commissioner of DCF, we have seen notable accomplishments in many areas. I am most proud of the reductions in the number of children who have had to experience a foster care placement. Given our ability to provide timely access to community-based and in-home services, there has been a 20 percent reduction in the number of children in foster care and a corresponding increase in the number of children we have been able to serve safely at home with their families. In addition, for those children who do need to be placed temporarily in foster care, we have also seen a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes to achieve permanency for them through either reunification, adoption or a transfer of guardianship. We have also seen notable reductions in the number of children who suffer repeat maltreatment, which indicates that the Department’s interventions after an incident of abuse or neglect has occurred are effectively preventing future victimization. Lastly, we have significantly increased the percentage of children who are placed in family settings rather than in congregate care settings whenever that is consistent with their clinical needs and best interests.