* Ana Espinosa…
The previous acting director, Beverly “BJ” Walker, signed a six-month, $5.1 million contract on her final day as DCFS director.
The contract created the Aunt Martha’s interim care center, which is a short-term living arrangement for children coming out of psychiatric hospitals. […]
But according to [Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert], there is no research to support the interim care center (ICC) that DCFS is paying $5 million for.
“It’s something DCFS made up,” Golbert said. […]
Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy of ACLU of Illinois, said, “We were not consulted by the leadership of DCFS as they moved forward with a plan for an ICC at Aunt Martha’s until months after the contract was agreed and the process was well underway. When we became aware of this proposal, we raised our concerns – concerns confirmed by one of the court-appointed experts.”
Golbert said DCFS created the ICC to help the statistic of kids in locked hospitals but as a result, created more problems.
“And one of the ICCs used to be shelter space and so, they took away the shelter space. So now you also have a shortage of shelter space and as a result, now you also have children sleeping in offices.”
The current DCFS director, Marc Smith, was with Aunt Martha’s for 10 years before being picked by Gov. Pritzker to direct DCFS.
Golbert said there is no evidence to prove Interim Care Centers are a good placement for children.
“If you scour the social sciences literature looking for references to an Interim Care Center. If you scour social work literature, if you scour other models in other parts of the country, you will not find anything called an Interim Care Center,” Golbert said.
Although the ICC contract was just signed in February 2019, Pennington said they’ve been doing this integrated care for more than a year and have seen results.
“We have seen about a 30% reduction in hospitalizations. Once they are admitted to the ICC, we see compliance with medication. We see success with a reduction in acts of physical aggression and then, we have seen them transition on to more permanent placements,” Pennington said.
The Interim Care Center is even being debated in a court case between the American Civil Liberties Union and DCFS.
We got a copy of the transcripts and it shows that during the last hearing, an attorney with the ACLU said, “This isn’t a known treatment method for people coming out of psych hospitalization. This is a made up thing and it was operating as a shelter.”
* DCFS has been under extreme pressure to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations. Kids are sent there and can’t get out because the state can’t find foster homes or other placements…
According to the public guardian, at this exact moment, there are Illinois children inside locked psych hospitals even though they don’t have to be there simply because DCFS doesn’t have a place to put them.
“There’s not a whole lot that says to a kid you don’t care more than being forced to stay in psychiatric hospital for weeks and months after you’re ready to go because your guardian doesn’t have anywhere to put you,” Golbert said. […]
In a letter to the governor written in May, Golbert said from 2015 to 2017, it cost taxpayers $9.4 million to house children “Beyond Medical Necessity.”
“It’s a multi-million-dollar waste of money while we are trampling on these kids rights and traumatizing them,” Golbert said.
The letter to the governor also said in that two-year span, the children spent collectively 27,000 days in the hospital longer than they needed to.
So, what appears to be happening is DCFS came up with a way to get kids out of psych hospitals, but the method is unprecedented and watchdogs are alarmed.
* Back to the shelter space shortage issue mentioned above…
Newly obtained pictures show a problem the Cook County public guardian fears is happening too often: Kids sleeping on the floor of a state office building.
The kids were in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services at the time . […]
DCFS’ own count shows a dwindling number of emergency shelter space available. Five years ago there were 159 beds. Now, the number is down to just 43 statewide.
“The kids I’m aware of sleeping in offices it’s because the shelter was full, no beds available,” Golbert said.
A DCFS spokesperson insists the state office building isn’t being used as a makeshift shelter.
The agency released a statement that reads:
Many DCFS offices across the state must be prepared to protect infants, children and youth who will often arrive exhausted and in need of clothing, food, diapers, formula and other necessities. This is not a substitute for shelter. DCFS is working in partnership with providers to secure additional shelter options for those in need.
The only word that comes to mind is Kafkaesque.
* Illinois Lawmakers Demand Child Welfare Officials Better Serve Spanish-Speaking Families: State officials now say they want to increase bilingual hiring and the recruitment of Spanish-speaking foster families.
* DCFS Placed Boy in Foster Home With Convicted Sex Offender Who Repeatedly Abused Him: The public guardian claims in the suit that DCFS did not perform an investigation into the man’s background or criminal history, as required by law
* 2,200 Illinois DCFS staffers to undergo mandatory training
* After DCFS caseworker killed on the job, her husband works for change at the troubled agency: His idea is to create a numbered rating system that’s clean and easy for all to understand. Cases with a 1 or 2 would be considered less threatening. “If it was a 3,4,5 before they moved on that case they would need a police officer,” he said. He also wants all cases called into the hotline to begin with a high-risk status, requiring a police escort for several visits until the environment inside is determined to be safe enough for a DCFS investigator to go there alone. As for the DCFS union agreement, Don Knight wants the safety clauses for workers enforced. He claims they’re currently ignored.
* IL DCFS employee discharged following romantic relationship during investigation
* DCFS Acting Director Marc Smith reveals plan to turn troubled child welfare agency around: “One of the ways we’re trying to address that is we review a tremendous amount of our cases,” Smith told the I-Team. “One of the areas we look at, cases that have reached a level of tragedy or concern. And then we pull those cases and the management team looks at each individual case. We do it to see what we can learn, if there were mistakes made, if there were things we should have done better.”
* Change underway for Illinois DCFS after controversial children’s deaths: While Smith is committed to staying, DCFS caseworkers are another story. Turnover is high, largely because the pay is low. “I’ve also seen workers that are overwhelmed, don’t really want to dig deeper, sometimes folks are really unable to make a good assessment if they are not able to handle the immense work load that they are under or maybe not enough training to understand the dynamics of abuse and how that may affect family,” Rivette said.