Connecticut state lawmakers and members of the state’s Republican Party are demanding a formal inquiry into the Short-Term Assessment & Respite (STAR) Home in Harwinton. The emergency shelter for teenage girls was the subject of a recent investigation from CII Senior Investigative Reporter Marc Fitch, published on Sunday.

The story, which documented a series of concerning events centered at and around the STAR Home, seems to have struck a chord with state lawmakers, who sent letters on Wednesday to both the Chairs of the General Assembly’s Committee on Children and leadership at the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which oversees the home. 

In these letters, the lawmakers demand the committee hold an informational hearing on the matter and call witnesses, including DCF Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes (and staff), Bridge Family Center representatives (who manage the home), and Harwinton municipal and emergency services officials.

The letters are signed by House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford), Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-Bethany), Sen. Henri Martin (R-Bristol), Rep. John Piscopo (R-Harwinton), and Committee on Children Ranking Members Sen. Lisa Seminara (R-Avon) and Rep. Anne Dauphinais (R-Killingly).

“These are very dangerous incidents that are alleged to have occurred, impacting the young clients at the STAR facility, its staff, and our first responders. Harwinton is a rural town with limited resources. The constant efforts required to address these reported issues have made it difficult for local officials to continue to serve the rest of the community,” said Piscopo in a statement. “In order to curb this alarming trend, I support a full-scale review of facility operations.”

Among the incidents reported at STAR include numerous inappropriate sexual relationships between adult staff and minor residents, sexual assault between residents and by staff, stolen vehicles, and violent assault both on staff and by staff.

These incidents required intervention by local emergency services, both police and ambulance. In some cases, calls were so frequent it diminished EMS ability to services other areas of town.

“DCF continues to place juveniles at the STAR Home with acute behavioral issues that are well beyond the level of care that staff and the STAR Home program can provide,” wrote Trooper Gregory Kenny in a report. “This practice puts STAR Home staff/residents, responding Troopers, Emergency Service Members and the Harwinton Community in danger and has resulted over the past year in the injury to Troopers, Staff and Juvenile Residents.”

Trooper Kenny also alleged that Bridge Family Center actively encouraged staff not to report incidents to authorities.

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An Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. She has covered everything from government corruption to science and space to entertainment...

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