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The hollowing out of state government

Wednesday, Mar 13, 2019

* Press release

Children’s Home & Aid works every day to help children and families to thrive. Our deep commitment to their success is fueled by an equally strong commitment to delivering services in a sustainable way. We tackle challenges and do our best to meet the needs in light of the community dynamic, resources, etc. However, there are times when we face hard decisions that call for downsizing or in some situations, program exits. This is just such a time.

Effective immediately, we have started the process of phasing out foster care and intact family services in the Central Region.

The current child welfare environment in the Central Region has posed increasingly difficult challenges and it is clear that our foster care and intact family services are not sustainable for us in Bloomington, Champaign and the surrounding communities.

This difficult decision will impact 19 staff members. We have asked Central region child welfare staff to stay with us to help ensure the smoothest possible transitioning of 170 foster care cases and 11 intact families to other community-based providers. We anticipate completing this process by the end of May.

* Pantagraph

Children’s Home & Aid has started the process of working with DCFS to transition the families to another agency, [Jassen Strokosch, the agency’s director of communications] said. […]

The two programs are funded by the state but there has been no rate reimbursement increase in two decades, Strokosch said. Children’s Home & Aid has been covering the difference.

“In the last three years, we have averaged losing $150,000 a year on foster care and intact family services,” he said. “We’re losing too much money providing the services … That’s not sustainable.”

In addition, the low reimbursement makes it difficult to attract and retain quality staff, he said.

* Illinois Collaboration on Youth

When providers are unable to pay enough in wages and benefits to attract and retain a qualified workforce, it is ultimately the children, youth, and families who suffer.

Not only does high workforce turnover divert resources away from service provision toward recruitment and training, it negatively impacts the very people who are supposed to benefit from this work. For example, everyone agrees that children and youth are best raised in permanent, safe, and loving homes, however, high worker turnover is strongly correlated to increased lengths of stay in the child welfare system. This constant changing of caseworkers and supervisors is an impediment to achieving that goal, whether it is to return children to their biological families, develop formal guardianship with extended kin, or find new adoptive homes for them.

From a child’s point of view, a change in caseworker is yet another time when an adult who is supposed to care for them has let them down.

Illinois was once a national leader in child welfare, but today, we rank last in the nation on important measures of child safety and permanency. For too long we have asked providers to do the impossible with shockingly insufficient funding. We cannot continue to ignore their warnings. The child welfare workforce does difficult and demanding work. They deserve to be fairly compensated for it, and to receive adequate supervision and training so they can do their jobs well.

Providers need an emergency rate increase to stop the bleeding. We are seeking approximately $37 million with HB2524/SB1730 to help address the historic underfunding and begin to turn this system around.

But, yeah, let’s do across-the-board state budget cuts. Right.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - illini - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:36 pm:

    Sad and troubling in so many ways.

  2. - Union thug - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:38 pm:

    They can just cut the waste fraud and abuse/s

  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    It’s going to be a long slog restoring core responsibilities to where they need to be.

    It would help if some confused conservative-capitalists disabused themselves of the screwball idea that the state is responsible for “job creation” through central planning.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:43 pm:

    I’m old enough to remember when the state had no budget for two years and social services suffered, some closed, some downsized to little of what they were, a president of the Ounce of Prevention had her organization sue her husband…

    The point… this has been going on far too long, exacerbated by the previous governor so the fire that existed these past 12 years prior to the former governor sped up the most recent 4 years, making this a 16 year disaster, sped up purposely these previous, immediate 4 years.

    We need to get the ship straightened out well before arbitratary cuts are tossed around so glibly.

  5. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    I recall Rauner did a presser at Children’s Home and Aid, and gave a lot of platitudes, but no new money. The damage he did to our social services fabric may take decades to undo.

  6. - The Dude Abides - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    Killing Unions and ending prevailing wage was more important to our previous Governor that these kids were. We are now in the process of trying to fix everything Rauner broke.

  7. - Low level - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    One of the best agencies Ive ever worked with. Total failure by Illinois government.

  8. - Sue - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:06 pm:

    Folks when are you gonna stop blaming Rauner. The truth is that funding pensions and other benefits is the culprit. There is little left after paying for pensions Medicaid and other mandated costs

  9. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:07 pm:

    ===…when are you gonna stop blaming Rauner.===

    I wrote…

    ===the state had no budget for two years and social services suffered, some closed, some downsized to little of what they were, a president of the Ounce of Prevention had her organization sue her husband…

    The point… this has been going on far too long, exacerbated by the previous governor so the fire that existed these past 12 years prior to the former governor sped up the most recent 4 years, making this a 16 year disaster, sped up purposely these previous, immediate 4 years.===


  10. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:09 pm:

    Low pay contributes to staff churn. That makes managing and building a good workforce extremely difficult. Then the risk becomes unacceptable.

    DCFS has little ability to cut costs. Each child in care has their own court order. Not easy to change en masse.

    Most DCFS costs get a federal match. Cut the cost and lose the match. Plus the match comes with rules. Do it their way or lose the match.

    DCFS needs to fulfill its mission first and count costs second. That isn’t to say that costs can’t be managed. But it requires a deft hand.

  11. - Sue - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:13 pm:

    Oswego- Pritzker is going to find that even with his huge tax bumps that he won’t have the money to fund state services. The pensions may have to be funded but it is swallowing the State whole

  12. - d. p. gumby - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:13 pm:

    Sue, there is no end to blaming Brucie as there is no end to the damage he caused/accelerated/magnified.

  13. - Moby - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:15 pm:

    == The truth is that funding pensions and other benefits is the culprit. There is little left after paying for pensions Medicaid and other mandated costs. ==

    So, what’s your solution, Sue? Just blink, and make pensions disappear?

  14. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    ===Pritzker is going to find that even with his huge tax bumps that he won’t have the money to fund state services. The pensions may have to be funded but it is swallowing the State whole===

    Pritzker is the governor now and that will be the charge to find a fiscal solution that can get 71/60 and 36/30 that will help the state.

    It’s front and center, not ignored, but the elephant that knocked all 4 walls down and the roof fell on its head.

  15. - ike - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    Sue - If we can’t blame Rauner for destroying social services during his term in office, then you can’t blame democrats for the pension costs.

  16. - Downstate - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    When Catholic Charities provided foster care services for the state, a large number of their employees were driven by the humanitarian aspect of the service. As a result, they weren’t driven by the almighty dollar.

    It’s a shame that Catholic Charities had to vacate this critical service arena.

  17. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:17 pm:

    If my house is on fire and someone pours gasoline on it, I’m not going to stop blaming him. Ever.

  18. - Sue - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:18 pm:

    Money- you are seeing the solution- every other facet of govt is effected and most of the new tax revenue will be absorbed by State pension and retiree health costs the latter not explicitly protected by the constitution notwithstanding what the S Ct ruled. Get used to the quality of state services continuing to decline as long as the State is diverting what will soon be 10 B a year into pension funding

  19. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:27 pm:


    What should be done about the pensions

  20. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:30 pm:

    I can’t see anything that can be cut. The only thing is maybe de-privatize jobs that were privatized before and stop paying the middleman.
    The goal of consolidating units of government is a waste of time. If you have three townships with six people each doing the work and you change it to one township with eighteen people doing the work what have you gained? Maybe they share a copy machine and a coffee maker? Yeah, big savings there.

  21. - Andrea Durbin - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:42 pm:

    @ Da Big Bad Wolf. The problem with your theory is that the public sector workers make literally two to three times what caseworkers make in the private sector, depending on your location in the state. The public sector keeps scooping up the private sector workers, who have already gone through an extensive, several week long training and certification process, thus creating the churn in the private sector workforce. (Our data shows close to 50% annual turnover rates.) The state cannot afford to “de-privatize” the entire child welfare workforce, which cares for 85% of the children in the system. Think about the math here: private workers make 2-3 times less in wages than the public sector. Private workers’ benefits are capped by contract at 25%; public sector benefits can range up to 75%. Private sector workers often do not have any retirement plans other than Social Security; public sector workers get a pension. It is simply not financially feasible to balloon the public sector workforce in this way.

  22. - IllinoisBoi - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 1:53 pm:

    We can stop blaming Rauner when people stop blaming state employees for having pensions. Those employees signed a contract that gave them a pension, then faithfully paid a percentage of every paycheck to help fund it. They did nothing wrong. They’re victims of inept politicians.

  23. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 2:06 pm:

    =The truth is that funding pensions and other benefits is the culprit.=

    You like other’s who would not own up to their obligations need to correctly understand the actual issue. The actual issue is debt, not pensions. Debt.

    The annual cost of the pensions is south of $2 billion dollars. And shrinking as more Tier 2 people enter the work force and Tier 1 people die off.

    The cost of the debt is north of $5.5 Billion. Had you insisted that your legislators and governors made the full payment when due, this would not be an issue. Alas, we all accepted the benefits of not paying the pensions costs when they were incurred and allowed the debt to grow.

    The DEBT is choking the budget until Illinois finally generate the revenue to pay the bills.

    Rauner took a bad situation and made it an emergency to fight a battle against unions because rich guys demand to have a say but want public employees to remain silent.

  24. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 2:09 pm:

    ==notwithstanding what the S Ct ruled==

    That’s Supreme Court’s opinion is the only opinion that matters when deciding what the Constitution says or does not say. So, there’s nothing that’s “notwithstanding.” The Supreme Court says it, then that’s what it is.

  25. - Rahm's Middle Finger - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    This is an absolute shame. Children’s Home + Aid is one of the oldest foster care agencies in the country, is incredibly well run, and a thought leader on child welfare policy. I really hope DCFS gets it’s act together.

  26. - lost in the weeds - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 3:02 pm:

    Tax the rich people. Needs to be done at state and federal level.

    Only the rich can afford medical care, private and college education and bribing, cheating to get in the good schools. Also provide more revenue for programs.High marginal rates were lowered in 60s,70s 80s. Start fixing problems or forget “democracy”

  27. - Sue - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 3:09 pm:

    Anonymous- the pensions need to be honored but what might help is to remove the investment authority from the non- professional boards and hire really top notch firms( think Blackrock) and let them run the funds and perhaps the returns will be a lot better. The returns have been really abysmal for year’s notwithstanding the Plans all claim otherwise. Earning 8 percent in a really strong year isn’t great nor is earning zero is decent years. The taxpayers are on the hook so at least hire the BEST people to manage the money. TRS still has an outsized hedge fund mandate which is chiefly responsible for dragging down returns for years

  28. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 3:27 pm:

    =TRS still has an outsized hedge fund mandate which is chiefly responsible for dragging down returns for years=

    I guess we shouldn’t try to sway your opinion with facts.

  29. - Jibba - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 3:59 pm:

    This is why outlandish things like leasing the tollway need to be considered. A big down payment plus reamortizing the remaining debt allows the state to free up funding for things like consent decrees and required state spending.

    Given that we are now in Lent, I suspect most of us understand things like penance, which is what leasing the tollway would be. A desperate act, but maybe the only one left.

  30. - Smitty Irving - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 4:33 pm:

    Da Big Bad Wolf -
    While I think consolidations would save money, I know consolidations would make it harder for units of local governments to hide in plain sight their Open Meeting Act violations (check the AG’S FOIA website) or just plain ignorance of the law (Shelbyville Township, see Edgar County Watchdogs; airport board members).

  31. - Stuff Happens - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 5:09 pm:

    As one of the homes affected by this, I can tell you that it will be devastating. Caseworkers will change (once again), and that alone will set back permanency as new eyes question past decisions and struggle to get up to speed.

    Children’s Home & Aid is one of the best. We’re going to miss them.

  32. - Southwest Sider - Wednesday, Mar 13, 19 @ 7:37 pm:

    Illinois financial problems are severe, and certain constituencies are going to shrink. Rauner ran for Governor on fiscal crisis issues, promising reform. He represented the business interests over organized labor. Labor completely routed him and pensions will not be touched. As the pie continues to shrink, other smaller constituencies, like social services, will decline. They are not powerful enough politically and there is not enough money, although they have a strong moral standing. The middle and working class tax payers are also strong. JB’s tax reforms attempt to leave them whole. But we are still short on funds. And the increases in corporate tax rates is not going to be a boost for the local economy. The pie may continue to shrink.

  33. - PublicServant - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 8:39 am:

    ===The truth is that funding pensions and other benefits is the culprit.===

    The truth is that taking money from manageable payments to the pensions over decades is the culprit.

  34. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Mar 14, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    Ms. Durbin, Glassdoor puts public sector child welfare workers at $46k to $50k a year so at one third to one half a private sector worker makes from minimum wage to $12 an hour. Undoubtedly, at these wages, many of these people need the social safety net paid by taxpayers to keep body and soul together.

    You mentioned in your editorial that private sector child welfare workers are underpaid and so they leave. It will only get worse with the tight labor market. So first you say low wages are a problem that Illinois must solve with 37 million, then you say in the comments that low wages a solution to Illinois budget by getting a bargain basement discount on labor? Which is it toots?

    $46 to $50k a year isn’t living high on the hog but you know what is? Making 9 times that amount. That what the CEO of Aunt Martha’s makes (Propublica Charity Navigator). Children’s Home and Aid CEO makes a little less, $399k. The ten top executives at Children’s Home and Aid make under 2 million in salaries. For comparison the head of DCFS makes 109k. So we Illinoisans don’t need to filter that $37 million through the paws of some overpaid fat cats to increase the wages of child welfare workers. We can increase the wages ourselves.

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