* The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board asks several good questions about the horrific fire in Little Village that killed ten children. Here are the state-related questions…
What interactions, in detail, did the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services have with the children and their families? One of the mothers, who lost five children, reportedly had been investigated by the department for 21 complaints since 2004. Two of those complaints, including a case in which the mother involved a 16-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old relative in a shoplifting scheme, were confirmed.
What services did DCFS offer to the children and their families? What services were accepted? Who made contact with the family, made the assessments and provided services — DCFS directly or a private contractor?
Charles Golbert, the acting Cook County Public Guardian, told the Sun-Times that the extraordinary number of DCFS complaints about the one family, even if most of the complaints were deemed “unfounded,” should have prompted DCFS to take more aggressive action, including bringing cases to court. How valid is that criticism?
Most of the children were school-age. Did local school districts — either the Chicago Public Schools or in the suburbs — notice anything? Were there red flags? Was there any communication among the schools, DCFS and police agencies about these children and their families?
* I have another question…
In a statement, the Department of Children and Family Services said it tries to be as proactive as possible to prevent neglect when investigating struggling families.
Before the fire, the department already had been transitioning to a more holistic approach of evaluating families, which puts more of an emphasis on previous history, instead of reviewing complaints independent from each other, a spokesman said.
“This fire and this tragedy certainly confirms the need to do what we were already moving towards,” said Neil Skene, assistant to the department’s director.
Why did DCFS ever think it was a good idea to review multiple complaints about the same family “independent from each other”?
…Adding… A commenter…
DCFS gets taked over the coals either way. Anonymous@11:23 and Rep. Sosnowski are blasting DCFS for investigating a kid walking her dog alone, and then DCFS gets blasted for not separating this family.
When you think about it, those two examples you used go right back to the question I asked.
By deliberately not putting cases into a broader context, DCFS sets itself up for failure both ways. Either they go overboard on a silly one-off, or they don’t see the forest for the trees on a family with lots of issues.
* DCFS drops bombshell as it investigates Little Village fire deaths: DCFS, in its news release, said: “None of these individual reports by itself rose to the level of our removing children from their parents. Our current direction at DCFS is to be as proactive as possible in dealing with struggling, vulnerable families.” Charles Golbert, the acting Cook County Public Guardian, said the report was shocking. “It’s an extraordinary number of investigations for any one family. And it’s an extraordinary number of investigations that were unfounded,” Golbert said. An unfounded investigation means the agency couldn’t find credible evidence of child abuse or neglect.
* State child services ‘missed opportunities’ to help family before Little Village fire killed 10: Inspector general: “There are patterns where there are histories with families, where the department has been involved, and then it ends up in a death case,” said Meryl Paniak, who was appointed inspector general in January. “There were missed opportunities to do some things differently.”
* Was Enough Done To Protect Children Killed In Little Village Fire?: In the last decade, DCFS has had seven directors. In roughly the same period, a state report found 19 children died for undetermined causes, while their families were under DCFS supervision. Another 10 were killed in their own homes, while families were receiving DCFS services. “It’s not possible to make consistent systemic types of changes at DCFS without consistent, high quality leadership and DCFS has not had that over the last decade,” Golbert said.