* Also note the info about opioid abuse…
Today, Assistant Majority Leader Sara Feigenholtz joined child advocates to address alarming child abuse trends and to demand accountability from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS.)
“I filed HR986 last week because the Department has been hiding child abuse data since July, 2017,” said Feigenholtz. “DCFS took a step in the right direction this morning by reversing itself and releasing data, but it took 9 months of advocacy from former Youth in Care to get that done. DCFS should be ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the children of Illinois—not withholding vital information that advocates have used for decades to identify child abuse trends and protect children and families.”
For nine months, DCFS ignored advocates’ requests for a complete set of child abuse data, questioning their legal obligation to report the data, and suggesting that the computer systems they have used to compile the reports for over three decades are suddenly incapable or producing the reports. This morning’s data release shows that is not the case.
“The data released shows an increase in the number of children being re-abused—that number has skyrocketed by 50% since 2015,” said James McIntyre, President, Foster Care Alumni of America Illinois Chapter. “We also see a spike in opioid related calls. Services for people addicted to opioids have been cut over the last three years, and we worry that is the reason for the spike of caseloads related to opioid use.”
The alarming information contained in the released data makes it clear that more transparency is necessary to prevent child abuse in Illinois.
“This is a matter of being able to advocate for abused and vulnerable children,” said Kyle Hillman, a spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter. “Without this data, social workers in the field haven’t had the supports they need. It was a total failure for this department to hide the data, and it was unconscionable for them to withhold it for as long as they did.”
“The Department continues to drag its feet on requests to release information related to the safety and well-being of our children, and that’s wrong,” concluded Feigenholtz. “DCFS is failing children and families across Illinois. They should step up and do the right thing all the time—not just when they are called out publicly for hiding information.”
…Adding… Pritzker campaign…
JB Pritzker released the following statement in response to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services releasing monthly child abuse data:
“It is shameful that during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Bruce Rauner had to be talked into releasing critical child abuse information while his Department of Children and Family Services continues to fail vulnerable children,” said JB Pritzker. “Understanding child abuse trends is vital to preventing child abuse in the future. I am relieved we will again have access to data, but real damage was done because this failed governor was hiding important information from the public. We should be able to count on DCFS to fight for vulnerable children, not fight against transparency.”
*** UPDATE *** From DCFS…
Director Walker is committed to the families and children of Illinois who need the critical services offered by DCFS. During her 9 months at the Department, she has made significant structural changes aimed at protecting our clients, improving operations, and building a stable foundation at this agency. As Director Walker mentioned in the hearing, data reporting at DCFS is severely hampered by outdated technology. The old report required transporting data in pieces from one system to another, then manually entering data and putting pieces together. The new reports have information drawn directly from SACWIS (Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System). They are titled: Child Protective Services Report and Hotline Call and Intake Volume Report The new data reports can be found here, https://www2.illinois.gov/dcfs/aboutus/newsandreports/reports/Pages/default.aspx