llinois’ child-welfare agency cannot properly account for thousands of runaway or otherwise missing foster care children, is sloppy about keeping track of when they disappear, and can rarely show that proper authorities are contacted when necessary, a report by Auditor General William Holland released Thursday found.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services does not keep track of how many children disappear in a given year or the locations from which they vanish, the audit found.
The agency reports that, during the 2011 and 2012 audit period, an estimated 2,800 to 3,100 foster children, or state wards, disappeared in 26,500 to 29,200 separate incidents.
The agency did not differentiate between those who had run away and those whose whereabouts caregivers did not immediately know. Of 29,000 incidents, 61 were reported as abductions, while the audit found 40 of those had been wrongly classified.
Holland noted that DCFS procedures emphasize “timely action to reduce risks to missing wards.”
The full report is here.
* From a House GOP press release…
Deputy House Minority Leader Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale), the Republican Spokesperson on the Human Services Appropriations Committee, responded to the audit’s findings and called upon lawmakers and DCFS officials to take appropriate action.
“There should be no higher priority for DCFS than ensuring the safety and welfare of children in the state’s care,” Bellock said. “These audit findings underscore the agency’s failure to meet that most basic necessity and how the lives of literally thousands of young people have been jeopardized as a result. Reforms are urgently needed to fix the broken system of reporting and locating missing kids. DCFS officials need to demonstrate what actions they’re taking to correct this tragedy and the General Assembly must be prepared to respond as needed to find and protect these kids.”
The House Human Services Committee is scheduled to meet in Chicago on January 7 to receive testimony regarding documented abuse at DCFS residential facilities. The Auditor General’s report on missing wards is also likely to be a subject of discussion for proposed reforms throughout the DCFS system.