* Either this is irresponsible hyperbole to prevent lawmakers from overriding the governor’s veto of the prison budget cuts (Quinn wants to use the prison money for DCFS), or it’s a stark admission that Illinois is a failure at protecting kids. Read every, single word of these two paragraphs…
In the wake of an estimated $90 million budget cut, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has slashed a program that works to keep kids with their families and is shifting focus from prevention to meeting its legal obligations and simply keeping kids alive.
“We took a look at how could we minimize our risk and still maintain the level of services that we are responsible for. When I say minimize risk, I’m talking about death of children. Because that’s ultimately what the Department of Children and Family Services is responsible for, is protecting children from dying,” DCFS Director Richard Calica told a Senate committee at a Chicago hearing. He added, “Well-being is nice, but death is what lands in the papers, and death is what I’m responsible for.” Calica said the reduction means the agency would reduce services that are not required by law or consent decrees.
The union and Calica urged legislators to approve supplemental spending for the agency to either eliminate or soften the blow of the cuts. Quinn has spoken out against the cuts, too. However, AFSCME opposes the funding source that he has suggested to pay for supplemental spending. Quinn is asking lawmakers to sustain his vetoes of funding to keep open several state facilities that employ AFSCME members and instead spend the money at DCFS. […]
[Calica] said that the changes at the agency are the product of the budget approved by the General Assembly. “The layoffs that you’ve been hearing about have to do with the budget that you all passed. You gave me the mandate to save $27 million. I don’t know how to save that without firing people, and I don’t know how to choose other than to choose based on the well-being of the children that I’m responsible for.”
[DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe] reiterated his boss’ statements about the department’s priorities, albeit in a slightly less blunt fashion. “We have core responsibilities to safety, permanency [of placement of children either back with their families or in adoptive homes] and well-being. But permanency and well-being can’t happen if a child is [not] safe. We need to protect lives. And in tight times, we still work to give children permanency and well-being, but we do have to prioritize their lives and their safety.” But both acknowledge that scaling back the intact families program could lead to more children becoming wards of the state. However, Marlowe said that he suspects it would not be a substantial increase.
I mean… discuss.