HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Lawmakers in Hartford held an informational hearing on Wednesday on an investigation into allegations of sexual assault and trafficking at a group home for teenage girls in Harwinton.
The Connecticut General Assembly’s Committee on Children is looking into a string of assaults, sexual assaults and other incidents at the short-term assessment and respite (STAR) program.
It is a group home for some of the state’s most difficult-to-place teenage girls. Many of them have been in and out of foster care most of their lives.
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) confirmed three incidents involving physical abuse or sexual assault involving minors and staff at the home since 2021. The adults accused were terminated and arrested.
The Bridge Family Center which runs the home gave lawmakers a written statement, which stated the organization responded to the allegations appropriately.
During the hearing, lawmakers questioned the Connecticut Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes on the allegations.
“We’ve had in that time frame eight incidents in this one house. Very serious incidents. So I guess I have to say what has to happen in one of these homes that you might deem this contract shouldn’t be renewed or that they shouldn’t be providing the services,“ State Sen. Lisa Seminara (R-District 8) said.
The state has since stopped admissions to that home. The mother of a 14-year-old girl who lived there earlier this year is suing, claiming her daughter was exposed to sexual assault while living in the group home.
The Bridge Family Center released the following statement below.
“Today’s Committee on Children’s Informational Hearing was an important first step in addressing the needs of youth in our care.it is imperative we re-evaluate the current model of the STAR homes and implement a continuum of mental health care that is constituent with treatment needs and capacity levels. Our children, who are victims of unimaginable trauma, abuse neglect, and have little hope for their future, deserve the very best program and services we can provide.”