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Today’s number: 19 dead kids

Thursday, Sep 12, 2019

* Hannah Meisel

Nineteen children who had recently been on the Department of Children and Family Services’ radar have died in just the first 11 weeks of the 2020 fiscal year, according to the agency’s inspector general.

Those deaths came after a particularly tumultuous year for the department, in which 124 children, whose family had some sort of involvement with DCFS within the previous year died during the 2019 fiscal year. […]

Of the 124 deaths of children in the 2019 fiscal year that had been in contact with DCFS in the previous 12 months, about 17 percent of them have preliminarily been ruled a homicide. Here’s the breakdown:

    Pending autopsy: 35
    Accident: 32
    Homicide: 21
    Natural Causes: 20
    Suicide: 6
    Undetermined: 10

* The trend is not our friend

FY 2019: 124 child deaths
FY 2018: 98 child deaths
FY 2017: 108 child deaths
FY 2016: 100 child deaths
FY 2015: 96 child deaths
FY 2014: 99 child deaths
FY 2013: 93 child deaths
FY 2012: 106 child deaths
FY 2011: 113 child deaths
FY 2010: 84 child deaths
FY 2009: 89 child deaths

* Meanwhile, this is from a recent Tribune story about DCFS and its new budget increase

Additional money will be allocated to purchasing a federally mandated software system and paying the salaries for 301 more workers at the agency. As part of the staffing plan, DCFS will add 71 child protection investigators and 17 workers to the child abuse hotline, two areas that are crucial for flagging cases of alleged abuse or neglect but have been criticized for being understaffed.

So, who are the other hires?

* From the governor’s office…


o We reached a headcount of 2,757 in May 2019, 1 below from FY19 authorized of 2,758.

o Due to end of the year retirements, attrition, & internal movement, our onboard headcount has dropped to 2,721 as of August 2019.

o FY19 additions: 126 positions, all caseload driven; These are allocated & currently being worked to fill

o FY20 additions: 175 positions; These are all allocated, most caseload & direct service – see above for breakout. Caseload driven positions are currently being worked & the remaining positions have been allocated & will begin the process to be filled quickly.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Steve - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:13 am:

    Death by government: the the Illinois Edition. I hope single-payer will work better than this if Illinois ever gets to do it.

  2. - Cook County Commoner - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:17 am:

    Perhaps I’m naive. But in a state of 12 million people with a declining economy and considerable pockets of poverty, 2721 people to deal with children suffering at the hands of bad parent(s),bad neighborhoods and bad schools seems way too low. And if a DCFS employee gets one case wrong, the community and press swoop in like vultures. I suspect the PTSD rate for on the street investigators may equal combat infantry.
    But, the state and local governments have other more pressing fiscal responsibilities.

  3. - Honeybear - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    These are hard hard jobs.
    They take a special kind of person
    With very specialized skill sets.
    It will be hard to fill these positions.

    and wow Steve….you are really…nevermind…I’ll get banned for saying it.
    Just be helpful man…
    stop being so hateful..
    get on board with solutions
    that help people in this state

  4. - James McIntyre Fan - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    The statement from DCFS is contradicted by the numbers released by the governor’s office.

    DCFS said it was adding 17 hotline workers.

    The governor’s office says it is filling 17 vacancies. That is a big difference in service. Also, new positions are funded with the FY 2020 increase, but backfilling vacancies was covered in FY 2019 budget.

    Who is correct here?

  5. - Driveby - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    I hope Hanna or somebody can publish the whole story somewhere not behind paywall. This is horrible.

  6. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    ==Death by government==

    How did you come to that conclusion? A child’s illness or accident could be from neglect or maybe not. Do you know the particulars?

  7. - Outsider - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    Tom Dart — paging Tom Dart. You spent your legislative career trying to reform DCFS - You are needed now. Join the team working on this agency reform effort.

  8. - JSS - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 10:54 am:

    Not that 19 deaths, or any number of child deaths, are insignificant, but what percentage is that 19 of the total number of kids DCFS has conducted an investigation on or otherwise had contact with?

    IDPH reports about 1500 deaths annually of children from infancy to age 17, so based on DCFS’s numbers, less than 10% of those total child deaths are children currently involved with DCFS. Obviously most child deaths wouldn’t necessarily involve DCFS, i.e. cancer, illness, auto accidents, etc., but what I’m trying to find out is if a child stands a better chance of surviving to adulthood with DCFS involvement or not.

  9. - R A T - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 11:17 am:

    I don’t know about all this DCFS bashing as it seems unfair and unwarranted but I have never worked with this agency. But it seems to me they are working with highly at risk children and if they were not there to help, the number of deaths would be much, much higher.

    Also, 20 by natural causes? Seems like an odd number.

  10. - Thomas Paine - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 11:21 am:


    The answer to your question is in the first sentence of Hannah’s story.

    100%. All 19 kids were in homes that had recent contact with DCFS.

    DCFS has taken 51 child death reports so far this fiscal year, 19 were for children with recent department involvement.

    That is not good.

  11. - Reality Check - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 11:30 am:

    @Thomas Paine:

    It is not good.

    It is also a rate that would yield 89 over a full year.

    Per Rich’s chart above, that’d be a 28% drop vs a year ago, and the lowest number in a decade.

  12. - what the? - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 12:51 pm:

    DCFS is one agency that suffers from the “darned if you do” (remove kid from home) and “darned if you don’t” (remove kid from home).

    R A T - “20 by natural causes, seems odd..” review the comprehensive report that was released earlier this year. Virtually all of those natural causes were related to complications the child was born with, with most of those kids passing within 6 months of birth. The family was “known to DCFS” either because an older sibling of the child had a case or one of the parents had a case.

    As to the vacancies vs. new positions - I view it as a matter of semantics. DCFS had to get those positions approved/funded. They became a part of the total headcount. Either way you look at it, once hired, there will be 17 new warm bodies manning the phones that were not there before. I view that as the critical takeaway. Also, backfilling any vacancy still will have a financial impact regardless of what year it gets filled and needs to be budgeted.

  13. - Cassandra - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 2:20 pm:

    A quick look at the 2019 report on the oig website suggests that a review of the quality of the child victims’ medical care would be in order. Many of the deaths labeled natural causes would seem to have been preventable including 7 from prematurity (should include a review of the quality of the mom’s prenatal care), 4 from asthma, 4 from pneumonia, 3 from flu.

    We are kidding ourselves if we think that staffing up the local DCFS is the primary solution to the many social and economic obstacles faced by parents, especially low-income parents, in our country. Expensive, hard-to-access and all-to-often inadequate medical care is one of those problems.

    In the same report, six of the homicides were gunshot homicides. How did the perpetrators come to have guns?

  14. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 4:00 pm:

    ==Freshman State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) said Tuesday he was skeptical of sending more state funding to an agency beleaguered with issues==

    Seems those issues are related to not enough people in the field or on the hotline which is related to having money to hire those people.

  15. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 6:06 pm:

    DCFS should know how many children are in families that have been investigated in the past year. Compare that to child deaths across the state.

    DCFS used to have this data.

  16. - Chad - Thursday, Sep 12, 19 @ 9:32 pm:

    Seems like the DCFS death toll has increased significantly under the Rauner appointed watchdog, Paniak.

  17. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 12:19 am:

    The many years ago the State of Illinois decided to not keep funding consistent for DCFS.

    In a couple of years we’ll need to decide if throwing funding towards DCFS should be a priority.

  18. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Sep 13, 19 @ 6:13 am:

    I find it odd that Bailey says he has great ideas to fix DCFS but never says what those ideas are to Ms. Meisel. Why? Did he have to catch a bus?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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