* A scary and disgusting number…
* 112 dead during this fiscal year so far…
DCFS inspector general Meryl Paniak on Wednesday identified four starting points for making improvements in protecting children in cases the agency is investigating.
They are safety assessments, training, supervision and manageable caseloads, Paniak told lawmakers in the House Adoptions and Child Welfare Committee.
Supervision is “key,” she said, but it will require updated, recurring training.
“We need to look into the complex need of the families,” Paniak said. “We need to start by asking staff what they need to do their job.”
She said there are 60 job vacancies in DCFS child protection statewide, and 400 of the 1,200 active cases have gone more than 90 days without agency intervention.
* But that’s about average, which is maddening…
An average of 100 children die each year despite Illinois Department of Children and Family Services involvement with their families, even after pledges to make improvements in the aftermath of tragedies.
“This consistent number of child deaths shows that the State of Illinois is failing to improve and ensure the protection of children, even when it knows they are at risk,” Meryl Paniak, the acting inspector general of DCFS, wrote last week to state officials. […]
agency needs increased staffing to take care of Illinois’ most vulnerable kids. Now, the request for the budget year that starts in July includes the largest increase the agency has seen in 20 years and a plan to add 126 employees.
Marc Smith, DCFS’ new director, said it will give investigators smaller caseloads and better oversight with more supervisors. […]
But some lawmakers and child advocates think the state should be investing in the foster care and adoption systems. They recently questioned caseworkers’ judgments to keep children like Liam, Kane, Matthew and, most recently, AJ Freund with their parents when there were multiple reports of abuse in some cases.
Two lawmakers told DCFS officials that community providers have told them they’re reluctant in many instances to report to the agency; they fear it could actually be more dangerous for the child.
Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, said providers are concerned about the chaos in the department, including the rotation of case managers and falsifying of records.
“When people report and don’t see action being taken, it undermines the idea that there is value in reporting,” she said. “We need to work on that culture of trust and believability.”
Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said communities do not think DCFS is helping families.
“Many of them think that DCFS (is) killing our kids,” she said. “That is a problem. That has to change.”