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*** UPDATED x1 *** Yet another problem at DCFS

Monday, Oct 23, 2017

* Tribune

And then 44-pound Verna became part of a growing pattern of similar fatalities: She was one of 15 Illinois children to die of abuse or neglect from 2012 through last year in homes receiving “intact family services” from organizations hired by DCFS, a Tribune investigation found.

There was only one such child death under the intact family services program during the previous five years from 2007 through 2011, according to DCFS records released to the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act.

The mission of intact family services, which roughly 2,700 children are receiving statewide, is to offer counseling, resources and oversight to keep families together, instead of putting children through another trauma by removing them from the home and placing them with strangers.

The spike in deaths began in 2012 after DCFS completely privatized the program, putting the care of families in the hands of nonprofit groups but doing little to evaluate the quality of their work, give them guidance and resources, or hold them accountable when children were hurt or put at risk, the Tribune found. […]

Illinois’ new child welfare director, Beverly “B.J.” Walker, said she was alarmed by the Tribune’s finding on the surge of child fatalities in intact family services cases as well as by a sharply critical report from the DCFS Inspector General on Verna’s death.

*** UPDATE ***  Ugh

Like a scene out of the fairy tales she loved, the little girl everyone called Princess was heard crying for help from her second-story window.

But unlike Rapunzel, no prince showed up to rescue 4-year-old Emily Rose Perrin, whose mother hallucinated about dark angels that told her to kill the child.

The state child protective agency with the power to take children from their parents didn’t save Emily either, despite receiving 10 reports of suspected abuse.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services now is calling Emily’s death a failure of the system and is making changes to stop it from happening again. […]

As a result of cases like Emily’s, Walker said DCFS has:

    ▪ Changed the numbering and case record search capabilities so investigators can get a better history of each family, including reports of abuse or neglect that at the time were found not to be credible.

    ▪ Created a report for supervisors on the 2,700 cases being monitored by DCFS that have new allegations of abuse or neglect.

    ▪ Come up with a plan to review cases with new reports at a higher management level in the agency to ensure the quality of the work.

    ▪ Come up with a plan to facilitate regular contact between the family’s caseworkers and investigators regarding additional needs.

    ▪ Come up with a plan to try to make sure investigators and caseworkers will visit the home together to make sure each understands the family situation and the scope of the new allegation.

The agency also will seek the help of police, school officials and mental health professionals, according to Skene, the assistant to the DCFS director.

Years and years of promises and we still get “failure of the system” excuses. Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

24 Comments
  1. - Anon - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    Maybe Illinois should try raising enough revenue to pay for the services it is supposed to be providing.


  2. - 47th Ward - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    Yes, but how much tax payer money did privatizing the program save?


  3. - dbk - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 11:32 am:

    The Intercept had a good piece up about this issue last week, “Children are dying at alarming rates in foster care, and nobody is bothering to investigate.” (Oct. 18).

    One of the stories it drew upon (Mother Jones, “The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill”) featured an Illinois case involving The Baby Fold (Bloomington).

    Some states don’t keep statistics about such deaths; in others, no autopsies are performed to determine COD.

    It’s privatization - when I read the Intercept piece, I was reminded of what’s happened to the prison system since much of it was privatized.


  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 11:57 am:

    During the campaign, Rauner claimed that Quinn wore the jacket for any DCFS failures. Guess that means he wears the jacket now. His first out-of-state superstar director seemed more interested in handing out contracts to his friends hiring a boytoy chauffeur. Things don’t loom promising for the new out-of-state superstar.


  5. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 11:59 am:

    BJ Walker is capable of improving the horrible mess that is DCFS. She has a mountain to climb, and that mountain sits upon 5 others. Good luck, BJ


  6. - Ghost - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:19 pm:

    Sounds like massively outdated IT system. Time to go from Mainframe to DOS.


  7. - Cassandra - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:22 pm:

    Over the years (decades, really) I’ve noticed in the press that child welfare agencies often drop the ball in cases in which the parent in question has serious mental health issues. I suppose there is reluctance to remove children from a parent who is ill. I doubt the problem is limited to Illinois’ child welfare agency. Perhaps one answer is more oversight of these cases by mental health professionals. Caseworkers are not necessarily clinically certified.


  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    Privatization is not done to reduce cost.


  9. - Fako Ruiner - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    That Madigan!


  10. - The young gov - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    As someone who has worked as a social worker and then in an executive branch state agency in a policy role, I do not think these tragic ongoing system failures are due to privatization. In fact, I would put money that the staff hired by the private non-profits are more effective (generally speaking, with someone exceptions of course). The way we hire (and the way we don’t fire) in most of the executive branch of state government (due to Rutan and the personnel code) and the extreme top down nature of how are IL state government works is a huge factor in these system failures. Think, stay in your lane, not doing anything until the boss tells you to, lack of clear communication from exec staff, some employees who do little while others do 200%, an impossible caseload size, etc. This Trib article needed to be written, but putting the burden for these tragedies on private non-profits is accurate. A strong middle management is a key part of the solution.


  11. - don the legend - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    Are we so jaded that we give the Governor a complete pass when it comes to his silence on the death of children. I would hope that he would want to be out front leading the charge that this type of tragedy will no longer go unrecognized. The best minds will be marshaled to implement a real and immediate response. Our State is better than this.

    This same rant applies to the homicide epidemic in Chicago.

    Where is the leadership?


  12. - Juvenal - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:35 pm:

    === Created a report for supervisors on the 2,700 cases being monitored by DCFS that have new allegations of abuse or neglect ===

    Rich -

    I just want to plant a red flag, raise my arms in the air, and jump and shout on this revelation.

    According to the most recent data available — and BJ Walker hasn’t released any data since the end of July — there were only about 3800 intact family cases as of the end of June.

    If in fact there are 2,700 allegations of abuse involving 3,800 intact family cases, that is astounding. It seems like a report of the Intact family cases that aren’t a dumpster fire would be more helpful.

    Which raises the question: why haven’t the children been removed from the home?


  13. - RNUG - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    To the update:

    When in trouble or doubt, reorganize.

    Don’t see anything changing soon …


  14. - Juvenal - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:41 pm:

    This quote from BJ Walker is also deeply troubling:

    “WHEN WE MAKE A DECISION TO LEAVE CHILDREN WITH THEIR PARENTS, IT IS NOT ABOUT THE ADULTS — IT IS ABOUT THE KIDS — BECAUSE THEY WANT IT SO BAD. OUR JOB THEREFORE IS TO CONTEMPLATE THE RISKS AND THEN SUPPORT OUR DECISION WITH A FULL-COURT PRESS.”

    Children should not be making the determination that it’s safe for them to remain in their parent’s care. They cannot make that assessment. It is bizarre that Walker would blame children for her department’s poor performance.


  15. - Silent Budgeteer - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:54 pm:

    At times, the problem is the attitude of the caseworker.

    When Mrs. Budgeteer and I were foster parents, we had a young child from just after birth until he was 18 months old. We had been told we would be able to adopt him. Bear in mind, his biological mother had already lost custody of two children due to physical abuse.

    He would come back from visits with her (and her live-in boyfriend at the time) with bruises, torn clothing, and even roaches in his backpack. It was not unusual to pick him up from daycare and find his backpack on the porch, outside of the home. We would report everything to the caseworker, as did his daycare provider.

    Three weeks before Christmas, the caseworker and her manager picked him up from daycare; the manager had decided that it was time for him to “go back to his real mother”. He called me at work to tell me they had picked him up and taken him to his “mom”. After all, he told me, “she deserves another shot at him.” My family was devastated at the loss.

    Two years later, I ran into another caseworker who recognized me. She asked if we ever found out what had happened afterwards. Of course not, I replied. We were told we were no longer a party or had an interest.

    Her words to me? “We made a huge mistake. That’s all I can say.”

    Don’t tell me it’s all about the children.


  16. - Responsa - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 12:57 pm:

    ==Children should not be making the determination that it’s safe for them to remain in their parent’s care.==

    I didn’t take it from Walker’s statement that the children are “making the determination”–only that their wants are being weighed and factored in. Unfortunately, there have been too many reports of children removed from their “intact” homes being as bad or worse off when they are put in foster care. Clearly young children may not be aware of, or fully understand the potential dangers they are in. But very few of them probably would not *think* they’d rather stay in a situation where they at least know their housemates and neighborhood instead of being removed (sometimes forcefully) to a completely new location where they may know no one.


  17. - Juvenal - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    === Unfortunately, there have been too many reports of children removed from their “intact” homes being as bad or worse off when they are put in foster care. ===

    Walker admits that 10% of Intact kids are being reported as re-abused.

    Only a fraction of a percent of children in foster care are the subject of an abuse report. Most all of those involve youth in institutions. And I agree, like Maryville, institutions ought to be shut down if they are failing to meet standards of watery and well-being. But you disparaging statement has no basis in reality and is no defense of intact families.


  18. - Cassandra - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 1:13 pm:

    Not to be an apologist for the state child welfare system, but it is worth noting that Illinois citizens have made big efforts to improve child protection over the decades. The state has been under a federal child welfare consent decree and ACLU oversight off and on since the 80’s–mostly on. There is an inspector general dedicated to DCFS who has been churning out reports since the 90’s and reporting to the legislature annually. DCFS achieved national accreditation in the aughts and I presume still is accredited. Since the 90’s there has been a network of child death review teams around the state that reviews child deaths with prior state agency involvement and makes recommendations. These entities are all staffed by educated, dedicated staff and volunteers.

    These are tough problems. And the solutions seem equally tough to find.


  19. - Dan Johnson - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 1:17 pm:

    Does any state do this well?


  20. - Responsa - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    == and is no defense of intact families.==

    Nor was it meant to be. The decisions DCFS must routinely make are hard and not necessarily obvious or made with foreseeable outcomes. There are caring and competent DCFS caseworkers and some which are not so good, and some who are horrible– all of which to some degree have been detailed in stories on this thread. There are many excellent foster care homes (as has been detailed on this thread) and some not so good foster situations as you yourself and others have pointed out.


  21. - RNUG - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 1:38 pm:

    Don’t know if it is still the case today, but at one time the policy/ priority was keeping the family united, not the best welfare of the child.


  22. - Proud - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    I have spent over 30 years in Child Welfare-both for DCFS and Private Agencies. This is not a Privatization issue per se. This is a lack of funding to the private partners. I challenge any of those casting stones to work one week in Child Welfare! Why do we applaud medical professionals for doing all they can to prevent cancer deaths but don’t blame them for cancer deaths. Those fighting our societal ills don’t get the same courtesy rather distain. That’s why the turnover that is referenced.


  23. - Perrid - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 4:26 pm:

    Proud, it is undoubtedly a tough job and there are rarely perfect solutions where everyone comes out happy. But your comparison to cancer is a little off base, it’s very hard to say a cancer patient died because of a choice that a doctor made. It’s not hard to say that if a child had been taken out of their home their mother would not have murdered them. There is a more direct responsibility for negative outcomes, and its certainly easier to see.


  24. - Proud - Monday, Oct 23, 17 @ 4:35 pm:

    Perrid 4:26

    I get your logic, but what is the right decision? I lost my crystal ball. Because Child Welfare workers cant see into the future then we should blanketly take every child away that we come into contact with where there are issues? If you have the exact criteria for how someone call tell if a parent will re-offend I am all ears!


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