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Problems as far as the eye can see

Monday, Jul 8, 2019

* Center for Illinois Politics

As DCFS has battled diminished funding, it’s also come to terms with significant administrational shortcomings: children lost amid bureaucratic inefficiency, mistakes, gross errors in judgement and the astounding revelation that 98 children whose cases were being handled by the agency were the victims of homicides - in a single year’s time.

Number of children in DCFS custody (including foster care, institutions or group homes):

    Fiscal Year 2019: 16,026*
    Fiscal Year 2018: 17,465
    Fiscal Year 2017: 16,780
    Fiscal Year 2016: 17,026
    Fiscal Year 2015: 17,507
    Fiscal Year 2014: 17,949
    Fiscal Year 2013: 18,084
    Fiscal Year 2012: 18,466
    FY 2011-1997: Data Not Available
    Fiscal Year 1996: 54,144
    Fiscal Year 1995: 47,862
    Fiscal Year: 1994: 41,161

    *Estimated number prior to conclusion of the 2019 fiscal year.

The agency has been so intent on keeping children with their parents that its practice has resulted in putting those children in danger, a study released in mid-May by Chapin Hall, a child welfare think tank at the University of Chicago found. This practice was horrifically illustrated by the recent death of 5-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Freund of Crystal Lake, who was placed in a cold shower and beaten to death in April by his parents, who later dumped his body in a nearby wooded area.

* And while we have far fewer children in DCFS custody than in years gone by because the state over-corrected toward keeping them with their biological parents, we also have a “permancy” problem. The state takes a lot of time to decide what to do with these kids

Many of these efforts are also directed at tackling what may be the DCFS’s biggest objective problem: the fact that Illinois has the worst permanency numbers in the nation. “Permanency” is a term used in social work to describe an instance when a child is either reunited with his or her birth family or adopted by a different one, exiting the temporary care system and establishing the child in a stable household, hopefully permanently. In Illinois, children stay under the DCFS’s care for 23.2 months on average before achieving permanency. By comparison, New York, the next state over on the ranking, has an average of 20 months while Colorado comes out on top with only 7.9 months. Increased funding and staffing could improve that statistic, adding more social workers to appropriately deal with cases and funding to support them, and at the same time that the Department is promising study new ways to improve permanency for its wards, the children of DCFS.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments
  1. - Legal Beagle - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 2:27 pm:

    I see a lot of talk about DCFS, but these articles never seem to discuss the court system. It is the COURTS, not DCFS, who decide when children return home or when they get adopted. DCFS can’t unilaterally return children home. Further, once the children are in care, DCFS isn’t even a significant litigant. While they provide services, it is the State’s Attorneys, Public Defenders, GALs, and judges who decide how quickly a case moves.


  2. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    DCFS is constantly balancing the risk of leaving a child in a questionable situation versus the risk of damage through removal. They will always get some wrong.

    Lately they seem to be making bad calls on cases where the situation is not questionable but clearly unsafe. That is a result of poor training and supervision. The DCFS information system used to allow each supervisor in the chain of command, including the Director, to see everything in the file for a child. Supervisors were supposed to review cases and spot problems. Not sure what happens now.
    Caseworkers are supposed to pursue two tracks simultaneously. Track A is reunification. Track B is permanent placement. In practice most pursue reunification till it clearly fails and then start working on placement. This adds to the length of time in limbo.
    DCFS can do better, but let’s not go back to 54,000 kids in care.


  3. - Al - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 3:38 pm:

    I am not buying the 16 years gap of data unavailable. That should be available in their annual reports at the State library. Which is a beautiful art piece of a building staffed by trained and helpful staff.


  4. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 3:45 pm:

    As to the missing data, would like to see the impact of the ERI in particular.


  5. - bad reporting - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 4:11 pm:

    The data exists. Chapin gets the data already. The problem usually resides with private agency placements that are understaffed as well. The legislature decided to privatize years to “save Money”….and give jobs out to agencies in their districts. hypocrites

    Placing kids with grandma, who beat her kids…really? c’mon


  6. - Soccermom - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 4:15 pm:

    Smart question about the ERI.


  7. - Isn't that convenient - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 4:30 pm:

    A couple of clarifications:
    1. The 2019 DCFS OIG report listed 98 child deaths, but only 18 of those were from homicide. Other listed causes of death were undetermined (26), accidental (27), and natural causes (27).
    2. While any child death is one too many, during an average year, DCFS comes in contact with 110,000 alleged child victims.


  8. - Shevek - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 4:50 pm:

    @Isn’t - It is very important to point out the complexities of the problems faced by DCFS, and put some of the numbers in perspective. However, no matter how you slice it, the numbers aren’t good. DCFS needs to be properly funded and staffed. Hopefully the new administration can accomplish that. But given the long history of failure, I am not holding my breath.


  9. - Pave The Way - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 5:13 pm:

    Shevek - I am holding mine - so I really hope this is the turning point. :) Bottom line, we all know the children being served need things to change. And for the first time in a long long time - I see an opportunity for traction, stable leadership, clear priorities, and progress toward
    shared ownership (including the law makers). And that is the reality - it is going to take all of us to fix these systemic issues - but now is our chance.


  10. - Been There - Monday, Jul 8, 19 @ 10:20 pm:

    I agree the Courts have a major role, however, when children are taken into protective captivity, the courts are automatically involved and then they are forced to make unfavorable decisions many times based on staff biases and or inexperience. The silent voices of many licensed and credentialed employees who feel oppressed, see the mistakes of workers and know some of these families just need to be helped financially and guided but they let them get torn apart by this system. Over time this process generates residuals of negative behaviors in society as young adults. There is bad and good caring staff in agencies that can destroy you just with a simple pen. The pen that writes false allegations against a person or fabricates the condition or circumstance. After being there only through eight of the directors, Erwin McEwen was the only director who understood and had a sound plan of action to execute change in how DCFS should and could work with families in their communities. Common sense goes a long way with social work and is often left out of the process. Social work is not for every person who obtains a degree in social work. Social work is a gift and is coupled with common sense, passion, cultural competence, experiences, and the courage to voice right from wrong.


  11. - Leo G. Alvarez - Tuesday, Jul 9, 19 @ 3:17 pm:

    From the bottom up (or down) Illinois has it All wrong when it comes to cruelty towards children by both parents and the Just A System.
    The Just A System is operated under the mantle of CAPTA, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Money flows from CAPTA to every State. It contains the Confidentiality clause that DCFS hides behind when asked a question. It says that the murderer of one of his children can be given custody of the remaining children. It protects from arrest drug addicted pregnant women who give birth to a drug addicted baby.
    To tilt the scales even further against abused and/or neglected children Illinois is the only State that gives DCFS legal authority to handle cases of child abuse and the discretionary authority to call in law enforcement for investigative purposes (See 325 ILCS 5/7.3, Ch. 23, para. 2057.3). That is backwards. Every other State gives law enforcement authority to investigate cases of child abuse and then call in DCFS if necessary.
    It is also questionable as to whether Illinois has child abuse laws although laws regarding assault and battery can be used for arresting child abusers if need be.
    On the issue of using foster parents DCFS should train their personnel to do the selection process for finding qualified persons because there is no schooling presently required to qualify as a foster parent. Contracting with an outside agency to provide foster parents has its flaws.
    One last remark: We teach our children Stranger Danger yet, Mothers are about 30.5% of the killers of children, and, fathers are about 1%. Together or in concert with a “partner, Parents are about 80.1% of the killers of children. Foster parents are about 0.4 percent (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2017.pdf#page=69) page 63


  12. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Jul 10, 19 @ 7:26 am:

    I was a foster parent and I had to get schooling to qualify me for my foster parent license. Also one has to get schooling to keep one’s license. I’m not sure where you get your information.


  13. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Jul 10, 19 @ 7:32 am:

    As far as parental killings go, it’s 40% mothers and 57% fathers, with 3% undetermined. 90% are the biological parents. https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/07/health/filicide-parents-killing-kids-stats-trnd/index.html


  14. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Jul 10, 19 @ 8:01 am:

    The Bureau of Justice Statistics has fathers are 61.9% of the murderers and mothers are 38.1% of the murderers when a parent is involved and the child is 18 or younger. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvs03.pdf


  15. - Çağrı Merkezi - Thursday, Jul 25, 19 @ 11:55 am:

    Çağrı Merkezi


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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