A foster parent who recently spoke out with concerns about Department of Children and Families decisions says she and her husband are giving up their license to be foster parents.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter says she received “negative feedback” to her comments after the death of her former foster child Jenica Randazzo, a 9-year-old who investigators believe was killed by her uncle.
Rhodes-Courter is a child advocate, an author and also a former foster child. She raised concerns specifically about where Randazzo had been placed to live and more generally about DCF efforts to keep families together.
“We didn’t give away our First Amendment rights when we became foster parents,” Rhodes-Courter said.
Rhodes-Courter said she received a letter from her foster care agency, Carlton Manor, asking her to abide by what she considers “a gag order.” The letter details some of the media interviews Rhodes-Courter did after Randazzo’s death and asks her and her husband to agree to “refrain from further violations of the confidentiality agreement.”
A representative for Carlton Manor could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said he was not familiar with the specific situation but that he wants foster parents to advocate for children, working within guidelines.
“I know the issue is sometimes is that the confidentiality laws are there to protect the bureaucracy. They really are there to protect the kids,” Carroll said.
However, Rhodes-Courter maintains confidentiality standards shift with the death of a child and that her comments following Randazzo’s murder were either public record, soon-to-be public record or her opinion.