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*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day

Thursday, May 9, 2019

*** UPDATE *** For the second time this week I’ve had to walk back a post because of significant problems with the underlying Capitol News Illinois story. From DCFS’ Director of Communications Jassen Strokosch…

Rich, I realize you are quoting this from a story, but this is inaccurate information. Representative Scherer approached the department about helping her be more responsive to families asking her for help with DCFS. That meeting came up in the hearing yesterday and we shared that we asked the Representative to refer all futures questions to the Advocacy Hotline. The advocacy center already exists and serves an important role for any family needing assistance resolving an issue with the department.

We also let all the members present in the meeting know they should refer their concerns to the same advocacy hotline. This is not a new service that was setup for legislators.

Thanks,

Jassen

The question and my commentary have been deleted.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Let’s go back to DCFS, which has come up with a novel way to maybe placate some state legislators

During the meeting, it was reported DCFS had already made changes following discussions held April 30, including adding a phone line lawmakers can now call to receive updates about any constituent who approaches them about his or her case.

“I think it’s important for us to be responsive in a way we haven’t before,” Smith said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

38 Comments »
  1. - Fav human - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:28 am:

    If any kids need some extra clout it’s them.


  2. - Montrose - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    What this says to me is that DCFS has decided that the problem is that legislators are upset. That’s not the problem.


  3. - Excitable Boy - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    Disagree. Sort the data by district and let the legislators do their own legwork keeping up on it and keeping the pressure on.


  4. - Anon221 - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:30 am:

    Disagree- Primarily on the basis of confidentiality. Let’s strengthen the overall process, and not provide a way for some (not all) lawmakers to make political hay out of what may be very sensitive situations.


  5. - OneMan - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    Seems like a good idea on it’s face, but besides the obvious privacy issues and ‘clouted kids’ issue, what does this really accomplish. Why should legislators have any more of an ‘in’ on status that the people directly dealing with DCFS.

    Of course you are going to end up with ‘inquired cases’ getting more attention either intentionally or unintentionally. You are going to spend staff time that it appears that DCFS does not have to spare on looking into status for reps.

    I voted disagree.


  6. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    Montrose nailed it.

    Also, Lawmakers should say “Thanks, but no thanks.” Its not legislators jobs to manage casework, and if I were a lawmaker I would not want that responsibility.

    Also, won’t lawmaker involvement open these cases to FOIA? asking for a friend at the BGA.


  7. - MG85 - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:36 am:

    Disagree. The last thing DCFS needs to complete its mission is for legislators to call a hotline to disrupt a process that needs no disruption.

    Besides, any legislator worth his salt already has this hotline: it’s called the Director’s direct number.


  8. - SpfdNewb - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    On the idea, I voted agree. I am shocked that a state agency did not have lines of communication available with the legislature already. Will this direct line help with issues at DCFS? I don’t have an idea.


  9. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:39 am:

    Disagree. Their plate is already overflowing, this will gum up the works even more.


  10. - A guy - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    This is a hard one. They should have oversight of the entire system and engage enough to be effective and get the desired results.

    But…having them involved in individual cases opens up a box I don’t think they’re uniquely qualified to deal with. What happens when one of these deaths (or more) occur during or after their intervention?
    It’s a hard one.


  11. - Honeybear - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:42 am:

    Agree, any pressure for accountability will help.


  12. - RNUG - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    Agree … If it is a public number anyone can call.


  13. - PJ - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    I guess this isn’t well known based on the responses so far, but legislators (really, their staff) already have the ability to call every other department to help get action on constituent cases. Medicaid, LINK, veterans’ issues, you name it. All this is doing is offering DCFS families the same capacity everyone else involved with a state agency already has.


  14. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    Fine. The more, the better.


  15. - PJ - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:45 am:

    And just to be clear - the other departments all have full-time legislative liaisons whose primary job is to staff a phone line (which isn’t public) that legislative staff can call to discuss constituent cases. This is hardly new or unique.


  16. - olddog - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:48 am:

    Voted “agree.” This seems to me like basic constituent service.


  17. - Perrid - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:49 am:

    Disagree. Certain kids shouldn’t be given preferential/better treatment just because a legislator is complaining about it. The goal should be to make the whole process better for everyone, and this would just distract from that.


  18. - Regular democrat - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:50 am:

    I voted agree. Agency really needs more oversight and pressure to perform


  19. - Not me - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:52 am:

    I voted disagree on this one. The process already has enough moving parts that adding direct legislative involvement is likely to cause more problems. Firstly, based on my experience working in the system, foster parents are far more likely to be able to contact their elected officials, which will reduce returning children home. Secondly, they lack the qualifications and possibly the perspective to make evaluations as to what is in the best interests of the children.
    In my opinion, the system is doing the best it can to improve but is dealing with human beings, children and parents, who are imperfect at best and that is a recipe for things to sometimes go sideways. I would wager that a large percentage of DCFS cases involve mental health problems and/or addictions. Adding direct legislative input is not going to fix this problem.


  20. - {Sigh} - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 11:53 am:

    Remember communications from legislators to state agencies is subject to FOIA.


  21. - PJ - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:00 pm:

    ==Certain kids shouldn’t be given preferential/better treatment just because a legislator is complaining about it.==

    I can’t tell you how many people’s lives I improved by calling DHS to fix something in their case that had fallen through the cracks, when they’d wrongfully been cut off from their health insurance or food stamp money. I agree that the system is broken and needs to be fixed in both cases. But the idea that people whose cases can quickly be remedied should suffer until the state can entirely overhaul its crappy bureaucratic structures is nuts.


  22. - Dotnonymous - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:01 pm:

    I voted agree…it seems oversight is needed.


  23. - illini - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    This is a tough one. Any responsible legislator will have a procedure to follow if contacted by a constituent with a problem or issue regardless of the substance. A hotline is a good idea, but if members of the GA are already aware of a problem or issue and has staff that will follow up this almost seems to be redundant and an added impediment to protecting those that are most vulnerable. A special line should not be necessary.


  24. - Norseman - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    What has DCFS’s legislative shop been doing all these years? Responding to lawmaker queries is a routine part of the job. That’s why I neither agree or disagree. Perhaps the new number goes direct to program staff, but that would seem to be a minor fix to a delay problem probably caused by understaffing.

    This is simply a PR issue and not central to fixing the problems at DCFS.


  25. - a drop in - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    “What happens when one of these deaths (or more) occur during or after their intervention?”

    The negative campaign ads would just write themselves, wouldn’t they.


  26. - pool boy - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:11 pm:

    I voted disagree. I do agree with Montrose.


  27. - Anon-I-Guess - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    Yes. Anyone who has worked the desk of a legislator’s office knows that you get thousands of requests on dozens of issues and you help however you can. It’s not a clout system. It’s a first come, first serve service that tries to untangle red tape for people who don’t know how to access the often purposefully confusing levers of state government. So yes, anything at all that helps legislative offices actually fulfill their role as a service provider to taxpayers is good. Every state government office should strive to have a more direct process to address concerns. It’s a shame it takes tragedy and reactive thinking to get to this point and it’s a shame that when we think of contacting your elected officials for constituent services it is now ‘clout’


  28. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    Voted a reluctant “disagree”, could’ve just as easily been a reluctant agree.

    Why?

    Constituent services by members of the GA happen precisely like this at times. Now it’s a highlighting an avenue that exists and inserting GA members in a process where the outcome and resolution includes them, sometimes it might be in things outside their own control.

    Adding a layer of correspondence and input, ok, it’s being done by some already, the goal is for better lives for the kids, so if others think that’ll help, fine I guess, I disagree in my vote only that it’s highlighting a process others already do, and might put a feel of “public” priority that might not help all kids.


  29. - lakeside - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    ==What this says to me is that DCFS has decided that the problem is that legislators are upset.==

    A million percent, Montrose.

    DCFS needs a solid, reliable structure - not legos jumping in and moving cases around.


  30. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    Voted a disagree, although rather reluctantly. Privacy issues. False alarm calls. Showboating. Weaponizing children amongst adults. Seems more negatives than positives. A general weekly report of cases in their district and how they are being handled might be the way to go here. The legislator can then follow up. My greater interest is getting everyone talking to each other about cases, from court cases, civil and criminal, to police involvement to medical providers such as doctors, nurses, clinics and hospitals.


  31. - PublicServant - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:31 pm:

    Agree with Perrid. I disagree with the hotline concept. We don’t need preferential treatment for clouted kids. We need to provide oversight to the whole process, without allowing a particular legislator to name-drop.


  32. - illinois_citizen - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:36 pm:

    “I think it’s important for us to be responsive in a way we haven’t before,” really? you think?


  33. - Union thug - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    Voted disagree. From my experience, legislators getting involved with individual cases leads to muddied waters and emphasis place in the wrong place.


  34. - Bourbon Street - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    Reluctantly agree. Many legislators already call state agencies as part of constituent services so this proposal merely makes the process easier. FOIA contains privacy exemptions so the chances that the identification of children and other private information will be released to the public because of this proposal probably is no greater than it is now. If the legislature thinks release of information under the FOIA is a potential problem due to this proposal it can amend the FOIA.

    In any event, let’s see if this proposal helps.


  35. - Charlie Brown - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:53 pm:

    Good grief.

    DCFS already has a toll-free number staffed 40 hours a week that lawmakers, foster parents, parents, teachers, health care providers, law enforcement, etc can call.

    The Advocacy Office phone number is 800-232-3798.

    DCFS is not offering a new solution. They are rebranding an old one.


  36. - A Jack - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    Disagree. From my experience Legislators usually think they have a higher priority than anyone else. Also if this phone line is answered by hotline personnel who are already overtaxed, then it just adds problems. At one time DCFS had an Advocacy Office that handled lower priority requests like legislator calls or other less critical counseling requests. I heard that the Advocacy Office was eliminated under one of the many directors. They should bring that back for these types of calls if they haven’t brought it back yet. The Advocacy Office took some of the load off the Hotline, so the Hotline could concentrate on critical needs calls.


  37. - Mandated Reporter - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 1:23 pm:

    Understanding Representative Scherer’s background is important. I don’t think she was meaning to give anyone any higher priority than another. She was a teacher, which means she was a mandated reporter. She knows what is right and wrong and hopefully never had to make a call to that hotline number, but could have. However, she wants to protect children or find out why children are not being served. As someone who serves students, I can tell you that DCFS did not recently take action for call and I had to call the local police to intervene.


  38. - Norseman - Thursday, May 9, 19 @ 3:18 pm:

    === preferential treatment for clouted kids … ===

    I thought Rich’s update would have ended this thread. Evidently not.

    There a lot of commenters who need take a deep breath before diving off the rhetorical cliff.

    Legislators expect agencies to be responsive to their inquiries. That’s also what their constituents expect. It’s up to the agencies to ensure the interactions with the legislators fall within the law and ethics as we should all demand.

    Now about the “clout” baloney, I’m unconcerned if DCFS responds appropriately. By that I mean a liaison/employee needs to act on any legislative contact as if it came direct the public. An abuse and neglect referral needs to be assessed as any other request. The only difference is that I would encourage the legislative aide to ask the constituent to call the Child Abuse Hotline directly. Hotline staff are trained to elicit needed information and properly assess the call to get the child quickly into the system as needed.

    Requests to expedite determinations should be triaged to ensure they are being properly handled by investigated by investigated staff. If the fact situation looks fishy, further review is necessary. DCFS shouldn’t advance a “standard” investigation ahead of others. If the solon or his/her staff complain, ask them if they want to respond to reporters who get word that a “bumped” investigation resulted in a delay in a child getting assistance.

    Now, go back to being concerned about the real issues of whether DCFS has the requisite staff, funding, process changes, training or supervision to improve this serious problem.


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