49-year-old Vannessa Dorantes of Bristol will become the first African-American to run the Department of Children and Families. She has been with the agency since she was 22 and rose through the ranks to become one of the agency’s six regional administrators and is obviously quite popular with her co-workers.
Governor-elect Ned Lamont said that for this job, there was someone already in state government that was the best fit because she had started her career as a social worker at the agency. He stated, “Vannessa has institutional knowledge, but let me tell you what that means; she has the heart and she has the experience. She knows the kids, she knows the families and she knows what it takes to make it work for them.”
Lt. Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz added, “She knows what it’s like to be on the front lines and, over the course of her career, she’s been mentoring people at that agency and inspiring them.”
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Dorantes has recently been involved with training DCF administrators about fatal and other serious incidents involving children that have frequently brought agency policies under a microscope because of obvious failures.
She said she was not looking for the job, just trying to help with finding a new commissioner. She said, “I’m a proud social worker. I’m a proud educator and I love children. I love the community and I understand that they get stronger when their families are stronger and their communities are stronger.”
Dorantes currently chairs the DCF Statewide Racial Justice Workgroup. Child protection issues have no racial boundaries, but the majority of the children in DCF care are Hispanic or African-American.