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The state has to stop failing these kids

Wednesday, Oct 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* How can this happen?

A Chicago psychiatric hospital that treats hundreds of children in state care is under federal and state investigation over safety concerns and alleged sexual assaults, and it may be forced to close if it can’t correct deficiencies.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has investigated 16 allegations of abuse and neglect this year at the Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital in the city’s Uptown community, including allegations that children were raped and sexually abused by staff and other patients, physically assaulted and inadequately supervised, a ProPublica Illinois investigation found. […]

In addition to child welfare investigations, the Illinois Department of Public Health has conducted a series of inspections on behalf of federal authorities since July that found the hospital had failed to ensure the safety of suicidal patients, obtain consent before giving patients — including children — powerful medications and sufficiently monitor patients.

Federal authorities have said they will cut off funding that is crucial to the hospital’s operations by the end of November if officials there do not implement immediate changes, according to federal records and court documents. […]

The child welfare agency continues to send children to the hospital, which serves children and adults in two buildings a few blocks apart. Nearly half of the 16 investigations have not been substantiated, and the other cases reflect individual incidents rather than a systemic problem, [Neil Skene, the special assistant to DCFS Acting Director Beverly “B.J.” Walker] said.

“The question for DCFS is whether children are safe there,” Skene said. “Nothing that we are seeing gives us concern for their safety.” […]

The investigations alarmed Meryl Paniak, DCFS’ acting inspector general, who in a confidential memo urged Walker to take action. Paniak wrote that she had “significant concerns for the care and safety of the children” at Lakeshore, according to a copy of the memo obtained by ProPublica Illinois.

The feds are about to shut off funding, the IG is alarmed, but no worries, nothing to see here, move along?

* One more item of note

At least three of those children had already been cleared for discharge but DCFS had not found them other placements, records show. ProPublica Illinois revealed in June that hundreds of children have spent weeks and even months trapped in psychiatric hospitals as the agency searched for residential treatment centers, foster homes and other placements.


  1. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:33 pm:




  2. - Ga. Dawg - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:38 pm:

    The state has been and continues to cut back on services for vulnerable children. Agencies cannot keep trained staff and provide needed services because Illinois won’t pay for it. This has been going on for years, and has continued under Rauner, but did not start with him. Ask any agency head what it is like to deal with MCOs and state agencies.

  3. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:38 pm:

    -Soccermom: government is important for the most vulnerable in society but don’t put all your eggs in one election. As someone who runs a state funded agency that deals with vulnerable citizens I can tell you that state government has shortchanged kids and adults with disabilities for years. Legislatures, year after year, have failed to provide adequate funding. IF the new governor really attends to this great but don’t just trust, verify.

  4. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:39 pm:

    “Nothing that we are seeing gives us concern for their safety.”

    That’s a real modern-day Sgt. Schultz.

  5. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:43 pm:

    Never — I understand what you’re saying, and I realize that this is a problem that transcends a single election. But gosh — when I think about what happened to agencies like yours during the two-year budget disaster, my blood boils. I never saw any glimmer that Rauner gave a damn about the people you serve.

  6. - Robert the Bruce - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:51 pm:

    NeverPoliticallyCorrect - I hope you are screaming - on the record - to anyone who will listen about the shortchanging of the most vulnerable in society and the resources you need.

  7. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:57 pm:

    Ensign Skene has no idea

  8. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 1:59 pm:

    RtB — I don’t know who Never is, but I can tell you that it’s incredibly difficult for these agencies to respond to these issues.

    Most of them are 501(c)(3) organizations, so they have to be careful to avoid partisan advocacy. (And while I sometimes am frustrated by their unwillingness to say ANYTHING because it might be considered partisan, I also understand that even a nuisance complaint about violating their tax-exempt status could spark devastating legal bills.)

    In addition. it’s dangerous to be the loudest voice on these issues, because retaliation is real. Speak out about your dwindling funding this year, and you could find yourself zeroed out next year.

    I am not saying that I believe agency heads should cower under the desks instead of speaking out — and I have had this conversation rather forcefully outside the confines of this blog. But I don’t blame a private agency director for thinking twice before s/he puts the agency’s funding, staff, and clients at risk by taking their complaints to the media.

  9. - Robert the Bruce - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:08 pm:

    Soccermom- 100% agree with you re: non-profit agency heads. I had (mis)interpreted NPC as being head of a government agency rather than head of a non-profit agency.

    Non-profit agency heads do need to keep their heads down some, as you describe. Head of DHS, DCFS….I wish they’d be louder.

  10. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:13 pm:

    It’s a systemic issue among State funded social service programs/agencies. On the one hand, you have underfunding which results in understaffing. The employees simply can’t keep up with the workload. Add low wages to that equation and you can see why programs have difficulty finding/retaining quality staff.

    On the other hand, you have a system that encourages employees (sometimes unspoken) to keep things like this quiet because it could cost an administrator their job and/or embarrass someone politically. In my 25+ years as a social services grunt worker with the State, I have personally witnessed things get covered up to save face. Nothing as egregious as in this story but enough that heads would’ve rolled if word had gotten out. I’ve heard many other examples from coworkers in other agencies.

    Nothing will change in this state until the culture of secrecy changes. The decision-makers have to be more concerned about the welfare of our service recipients than of their self-interests.

  11. - Stuff Happens - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:27 pm:

    Regarding the item of note, I think that problem is going to continue until the State changes the way it deals with mental health for youth in foster homes.
    o visit a
    Nobody wants to foster a child that they can’t take to a doctor. We’ve seen 18-month waiting lists for psychiatric visits (they have to take Medicaid), and if the new meds aren’t working you’re stuck for months waiting for a new appointment. In some cases, the psychiatrist will prescribe a new medication but DCFS won’t approve it, so you’re stuck without anything for a while.

    Even getting a refill on many of these drugs (which are controlled substances) can take months. You need doctor approval each time, so kids can run out and go for weeks without their prescriptions.

    These are all commonly known issues for most foster parents, and it’s a reason why these kids languish in hospitals. Then the hospitals are understaffed, and…

  12. - Huckleberry Mentat - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:31 pm:

    Cubs, I empathize with fact of administrative funding cuts have caused fewer staff and reduced training for those who are left. It seems to become a vicious downward spiral. Tradgedies like this are examples of inept government. If it’s framed right by those who want lower taxes, who wants to give their hard earned money to an entity that lets this happen on their watch?

  13. - anon2 - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 2:40 pm:

    “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”
    ~ Nelson Mandela

  14. - Perrid - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 4:09 pm:

    The stuff about doors and phone cords seems like a relatively small thing to close a hospital over. Especially if the phones were being replace before the investigators even left.

    The assault allegations are terrible, and if they really didn’t get consent (as opposed to not having a copy of the consent, which might technically be the same but practically is very different) for giving medication that’s also bad, but it sounds like Medicare was going to cut off funding because of phone cords.

  15. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 4:20 pm:

    @ Huckleberry: If the problem manifests in too few staffers and too many patients, then the solution is likely to mean more spending.

    Starving the agency and then complaining that they shouldn’t get more money because they can’t make do with what they have is criminally tone deaf.

  16. - Huckleberry Mentat - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 5:51 pm:

    I was not advocating the position, but I’ve heard a number of lower tax proponents tout anecdotal individual incidents of incompetence as evidence of widespread waste, fraud, abuse and administrative bloat. I think these assertions hurt the case with taxpayers for the need of additional funding to add adequate staff to address the needs of clients.

  17. - zatoichi - Wednesday, Oct 31, 18 @ 9:51 pm:

    ‘months trapped in psychiatric hospitals as the agency searched for residential treatment centers, foster homes and other placements.’

    Ever get the referral packs that come about these kids and other people with similar behavioral issues? High levels of violence, crime, and property destruction, yet NFPs are expected to handle these people with rates that allow mostly $11 hr staff for coverage. The verbiage far exceeds the funding. Most NFPs will simply say no because the promised supports simply do not happen until there is a huge legal crisis. Once the crisis cools down so does the support. The behaviors stay the same.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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