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Conn. agency questioned identity of kidnapped girl

Associated Press Modified: January 29, 2011 at 9:35 am •  Published: January 29, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Years before a widely publicized reunion between a girl who was snatched from a New York hospital and her birth mother, Connecticut's child protection agency had doubts about the true identity of the girl, who was raised under a false name in Bridgeport, a department spokesman said Saturday.

Gary Kleeblatt, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families, said the agency missed an opportunity in 2005 to help solve the disappearance of now 23-year-old Carlina White, who was raised in Connecticut under the name Nejdra Nance by a woman who now faces a federal kidnapping charge.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz "is convinced that the Department had a greater obligation in supporting Nejdra Nance," Kleeblatt said in a statement.

The DCF inquiry was first reported by The Hartford Courant.

The agency said it opened a file in 2005 involving the girl and Ann Pettway, the woman who was raising her, and provided housing, educational and training assistance.

Kleeblatt said the agency reached out to law enforcement and "communicated directly regarding the question of the identity of the girls' biological parents at the time." He did not say which law enforcement agency was involved or why officials had questions about the girl's identity.

The child protection agency has been under a federal oversight consent decree since 1991, as a result of a 1989 class-action lawsuit that alleged DCF was not adequately investigating reported abuse, was leaving children in dangerous situations and was failing to move children quickly into adoptive homes, among other claims.

Katz, who was a state Supreme Court justice before taking the commissioner's job earlier this month, is using the White case as an example of the need for reform.

"Pointing fingers and placing blame about something that happened 5 years earlier won't change anything," Kleeblatt said. "But going forward, Commissioner Katz is focused on making DCF an agency that approaches the care of our state's children in a holistic manner — communicating not in silos, but across departments and agencies; and making sure that the health and wellbeing of their target population isn't simply about providing services, checking a box, and moving on."

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