Fairfield residents recognized for their accomplishments

Two Fairfield residents David Nee and Joette Katz were recognized for their public leadership and advocacy on behalf of Connecticut’s children, youth and families at Connecticut Voices for Children’s “First for Kids Awards” ceremony at the Pond House Café in West Hartford’s Elizabeth Park on Nov. 6.

Through this event, Connecticut Voices for Children honored individuals in Connecticut whose work and commitment to the state’s young people serves as a model for all.

Nee received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his more than 20 years of service as executive director of the Graustein Memorial Fund, and for his collaborative work to bring together diverse stakeholders to improve the state’s early care and education system.

Connecticut Voices praised David Nee’s work as a contributor to major improvements in early education in the state, including increased state funding for early care and the establishment of a State Office of Early Childhood that is charged with developing a more streamlined, high-quality, and accessible early education system. Nee was introduced at the event by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Katz was honored with the State Policy Leadership Award for her leadership of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and for reforms that have kept more children with their families and reduced reliance on institutional and group care settings.

Forty-four percent of DCF-involved children live with a relative, up from 30% three years ago, and the share of children residing in congregate care settings has dropped from 30% to 22%.

Nee brings a unique commitment to ensuring that all voices in the community are heard in efforts to improve early education opportunities, including parents, educators, and advocates,” said Tamara Kramer, senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. “He has also been a leader in bringing together others involved with philanthropy and helping them to understand the value of investing in early childhood education.”

“Commissioner Katz has earned a reputation as a child-focused reformer who has effectively changed the culture and practices of DCF to better serve children and families,” said Ellen Shemitz, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children. “She not only speaks out for children, she also listens, soliciting the input of youth in foster care in her efforts to improve Department policy and practice.”

In addition, state Rep. Jason Rojas, who represents East Hartford and Manchester, received the Legislative Leadership Award for his advocacy on behalf of early literacy programs and improving educational quality.

United Way of Connecticut/2-1-1, a statewide organization based in Rocky Hill, will receive the Public Service Award for the HUSKY Infoline service, which has helped more than 1.6 million state residents over the last 15 years with signing up for and accessing the HUSKY health insurance program.

Each recipient was celebrated for making a difference in the quality of life of children in Connecticut and enriching our state. Previous honorees have included former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, former Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, the Connecticut Health Foundation and Yale Professor Edward Zigler.

Connecticut Voices for Children (ctvoices.org) is a research-based policy think tank that works to advance public policies that benefit the state’s children, youth and families.

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