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Unintended consequences?

Monday, Apr 15, 2019

* Earlier this month

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, to extend protections to DCFS and Adult Protective Services workers in honor of slain-DCFS worker Pam Knight has received the unanimous approval of the Illinois House of Representatives.

HB 1482 adds protections to DCFS and Adult Protective Service employees concerning assault, the same protections applied to teachers, police/fire, and other emergency responders who protect those in harm’s way.

“This is a public safety bill that closes a loophole to protect DCFS and Adult Protective Service workers. The loophole was discovered when DCFS worker Pam Knight was brutally beaten, and ultimately succumbed to her injuries,” said McCombie.

* But

Kyle Hillman, an official with the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter, does not believe this bill will better protect DCFS employees. Instead, he believes it could land foster kids who are already struggling with trauma, in jail for years.

“You have an 18-year-old that acts out that, let’s say kicks a social worker in a fit of rage. This individual could be hit with a Class One felony under this bill,” Hillman said.

He believes there are other ways to better protect DCFS employees.

“If we did a little bit better training, if we had more social workers go into those dangerous situations so they aren’t going at it alone, those would be much more effective at protecting our members than adding higher penalties to existing crimes,” Hillman said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - confused - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:34 am:

    That same logic would apply to an an “18-year-old that acts out, let’s say kicks a TEACHER in a fit of rage” Is there an epidemic of these kinds of cases that we haven’t heard about?

  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:39 am:

    Did the social workers not have input into this bill? If not, why not?

    Is this just a legislative “get tough” grandstand?

  3. - A Jack - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    If a social worker charges an emotionally distressed child with kicking them in the leg, that social worker is probably in the wrong occupation. Kyle seems a bit detached from reality.

  4. - Perrid - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    A Jack, I don’t know about DCFS but it’s not uncommon in institutions/schools for kids with problems. I can see both sides. On the one hands employees should NOT have to put up with physical abuse, on the other jailing kids helps no one, except maybe the facility that is able to dump the kid into prison. Certainly doesn’t help society as a whole.

  5. - PJ - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    As always, I await the first case in human history where a potential assailant pulls up the Illinois Criminal Codes on their phone before assaulting someone. “Oh man, this has been upgraded as an offense? I better not beat this DCFS worker”.

    Congrats on your press release, folks.

  6. - James McIntyre Fan - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    Another good question is: did foster kids and former foster kids have any input on the bill?

    Physical confrontation between DCFS staff and parents are not unheard of.

    But physical confrontation between foster kids and private agency and psych hospital staff are a daily occurence. It does not take too much imagination to foresee group homes seeking prosecution from friendly state’s attorneys in downstate Illinois, nor much of a rocket scientist to predict the prosecutions will fall disproportionately on black teenagers.

    Kyle is correct, but i do not think prosecution will be limited to 18 year olds.

  7. - West Sider - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    If you’re aim is to better protect social workers, and you aren’t working with Kyle Hillman, who is the chief advocate for social workers in Illinois- maybe protecting social workers isn’t really your goal.

  8. - Interested Observer - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    The history of penalty net widening or enhancements always generates these harmful kinds of consequences. Always. I therefore don’t think it’s right to call this an “unintended consequence.” It’d be more appropriate to think of it as a form of legislative negligence or recklessness in which legislators should have known—or maybe even did know—that this kind of consequence could result from a change in the law, but voted for the bill anyways.

  9. - A Jack - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:05 am:

    So right now you have a policeman and a social worker walk into a home. Someone in the home attacks both. But the penalty for attacking the police officer is greater?

  10. - IT guy - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:12 am:

    A Jack - I don’t see any mention of anyone being kicked in the leg. The DCFS worker was kicked in the head and brutally beaten by an adult. If this were a 15 year old child brutally beating an adult, not just kicking in the leg, should they face the stiffer penalty?

  11. - Responsa - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    Isn’t there possibly a connection between the recently reported lack of in-home follow-ups and criminal falsification of home conditions with DCFS workers understandably feeling unsafe and unprotected from physical confrontation? How many two year olds have to die because laws and penalties are too lenient for known assaulters of DCFS and other social workers? More training of social workers? Really? That’s the answer?

  12. - A Jack - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:42 am:

    Klye said that an 18 year old kicking a social worker would end up with the 18 year old in jail on a felony. I assume Klye meant the leg since he thinks that shouldn’t result in a felony.

    I don’t think that a social worker would charge a child in a minor altercation since that would likely be part of the job, so I disagree that this bill would result in more time for minor altercations.

    On the other hand, during major altercations, you have a difference in the justice given out between police officers and teachers on one hand, and social workers on the other hand.

  13. - PJ - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:49 am:

    *DCFS workers understandably feeling unsafe*

    Can you seriously say with a straight face that making the penalty for assaulting a DCFS worker (which is already very serious) somewhat more punitive is going to provide them any sort of additional protection? Do you want to guess how many people in Illinois are even aware this change is happening?

  14. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    – How many two year olds have to die because laws and penalties are too lenient for known assaulters of DCFS and other social workers? –

    Wow, that’s some mighty leap on the Jump-to-Conclusion mat.

    Saying “isn’t there possibly a connection?” does not actually establish a connection in any way. Do you have anything specifics that do?

  15. - Skokie Man - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 11:06 am:

    An easy fix would be to write an exception into the proposed law for any individual who is under the legal custody or guardianship of the DCFS Guardianship Administrator.

  16. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 11:10 am:

    @A Jack -

    On the otherhand, you have a group home employee hitting a 15 year-old charged with a less severe crime than a 16 year-old hitting a group home employee.

    I don’t think this has anything to do with private agency staff “wanting” to press charges, whether or not an arrest is made is a decision the police make, and they are often called to facilities. And their record of criminalizing behavioral health problems is abhorrent.

  17. - City Zen - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 12:39 pm:

    “You have an 18-year-old that acts out that, let’s say kicks a social worker in a fit of rage…”

    Right to Kick For Less

  18. - fedup - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    A point Kyle mentioned is being lost — “if we had more social workers go into those dangerous situations, so they aren’t going at it alone…”

    Having two social workers on child welfare cases would do much more for social worker safety than this law. I’d also argue it would go a long way toward solving some other problems at DCFS to have another set of eyes and opinion on a situation. Police officers wouldn’t go into a domestic dispute without backup, yet social workers do child protection solo? Baffling.

  19. - Andrea Durbin - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 2:49 pm:

    Kyle and James are correct. The challenge here is that young people in the care of DCFS may act out inappropriately and then face seriously disproportionate consequences for that behavior. This is not trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate, and nor will it increase safety for staff. We absolutely want staff members to be safe in their workplaces and while doing their jobs (all the time, really!). But know that legislation that automatically escalates any simple battery to an aggravated battery could easily result in a youth being charged with aggravated battery for things like throwing a shoe at a worker, grabbing someone by the arm, spitting at them, etc. Not appropriate behavior, but not felonious behavior either. We do not need to give youth who have been abused or neglected another barrier to their healing and ability to achieve their potential. There is no research that I am aware of that shows that these kind of penalties increase safety.

  20. - @misterjayem - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    The proposed bill may actually be worse than Kyle Hillman makes it out to be.

    This bill would make a felony of ANY battery of ANY worker by ANY child or youth in foster care placement or residential care facility.

    Illinois defines battery, in part, as making “physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.” 720 ILCS 5/12-3

    The proposed change would subject children and youth who makes “physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature” with a DCFS worker to felony sanctions and the life-long barriers to education, housing, and employment that come with a felony record.

    For making “physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature,” the 18 – 21 year olds who are in DCFS custody or programs would be prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system and subject to adult time in the adult penitentiary.

    And because Illinois law currently includes no “lower age” of criminal responsibility, any child of any age under 18 can be charged and prosecuted with this felony battery under the Illinois Juvenile Court Act.

    That’s right: A seven year-old who bites, kicks or slaps a DCFS worker can be charged with a felony under this proposed change.

    These proposed enhanced penalties are unnecessary — an attack like the one that killed DCFS worker Pam Knight is already multiple felonies — but if the legislature needs to do something to make itself feel better about itself, they need to exempt people who are 21 and younger.

    – MrJM

  21. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 4:32 pm:

    A seven year-old who bites, kicks or slaps a DCFS worker can be charged with a felony under this proposed change.

    Not if they are under 10

  22. - @misterjayem - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 5:02 pm:

    “Not if they are under 10″

    Citation needed.

    – MrJM

  23. - Buford - Monday, Apr 15, 19 @ 10:53 pm:

    To understand Tony McCombie’s bill, you have to understand the demographics of her district: old, white, and uneducated. The more ignorant and uneducated the voters are, the more they worship “authority” figures like state workers or cops, so of course their lives are more important than those who pay them.

    That’s why motorcyclist Bill Damhoff from Morrison is in the cemetery, and Whiteside county deputy Jeffrey Damhoff who killed him still has a job with a (taxpayer) paid car to drive.

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