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Cook County Public Guardian says DCFS attempting to “silence dissenting voices”

Friday, Feb 19, 2021

* From Cook County Public Guardian Charles P. Golbert…

The Child Welfare Advisory Council (CWAC) is an important council that advises DCFS on all aspects of child welfare policy and practice. To the best of our institutional memory, for the entire history of the council, our office, which represents nearly half of the children and youth in DCFS’s care, has always had a representative. Until now.

Last month, Marc Smith, the Acting Director of DCFS, advised us that we would no longer have a seat at the table. In fact, there is no one on the current roster who is appointed to represent children in their Juvenile Court cases. Most of the appointees work for organizations under contract with DCFS.

This is part of a disturbing recent pattern of DCFS seeking to silence dissenting voices. Recent examples include the midnight replacement of DCFS’s outspoken Inspector General (IG) with someone with no child welfare experience. The new IG released his first annual report last month. The report is wholly lacking in substance, in fact, the shortest IG report in 20 years. Another recent example is DCFS’s attempt to stop a 17-year-old from speaking to the press about his experience being locked up in a psychiatric hospital for more than 2 months of his life because DCFS had nowhere to place him. We had to file emergency motions in court to vindicate the youth’s First Amendment rights to free speech and expression to talk about his ordeal, which the court granted.

DCFS’s widespread dysfunction will improve only if dissenting viewpoints can be heard. We call on DCFS to reverse this unfortunate decision.

* I asked DCFS for a response. Here are Child Welfare Advisory Council co-chairs Zack Schrantz, Strategic Advisor for UCAN, and Beverly Jones, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Lutheran Child and Family Services…

As leaders of the Child Welfare Advisory Committee, we recognize the importance of diverse voices in our committee and made a commitment to increase diversity in CWAC membership. As such, we followed a fair and inclusive process to recruit and vet new members, which resulted in an increase of 10 more diverse voices at CWAC. We doubled our African American representation and tripled LatinX representation, while also adding an alumni representative and the first parent advocates, along with a representative from the Shriver Center.

We were pleased to submit such a diverse group for our committee, and excited to note that for the first time ever, CWAC is even more diverse than the youth that we are serving. We look forward to working with all members to influence changes to DCFS systems, policies and practices. We recognize and appreciate the previous contributions all past members, including those from the Office of the Public Guardian. Even if previous members were not nominated, and do not have an official position on the committee, they are still welcome to participate and contribute to our meetings and work. It is our intent to be inclusive and not exclusive.

* DCFS Spokesman Bill McCaffrey…

DCFS has emphasized the importance of diversity to all of our advisory boards, as it is important that we listen to the broad array of voices from across the varied communities in our state. We are working to eliminate bias and achieve parity in the services we provide, and we believe the best way to make lasting, impactful change is by allowing new voices an opportunity to contribute. These voices complement, as opposed to replace, long-time advocates such as the Office of the Public Guardian, who still meet regularly with DCFS on a variety of issues.

* Meanwhile, CBS 2 has an horrific story about systemic failure of a little girl who was allegedly sexually abused by several men

Police and child protective services are scrambling to explain why multiple men who sexually abused a 10-year-old girl remain free, even though the suspects are known.

CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini revealed Thursday night how the system failed to protect the little girl, despite years of warnings and calls for help.

At the Grand Motel at 10022 S. Halsted St., on the top floor, in room 324, something terrible happened to a little girl just 10 years old. Not even out of elementary school yet, she was taken there by a 47-year-old man from her neighborhood and sexually exploited. […]

No one from the motel would talk about the incident. But CBS 2 Investigators obtained police records showing motel staff called 911 and told officers the man’s name and date he checked in with the girl. It has been four months, yet no one has been arrested. […]

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was alerted to these and other abuses dating back to 2016. Numerous reports called into the abuse hotline including calls from her school.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 11:26 am:

    ==* DCFS Spokesman Bill McCaffrey…==

    Is this the same former Chicago Law Department spokesperson Bill McCaffrey who had, let’s just say, a public record that was less than honest and forthright?

  2. - NIU Grad - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 11:26 am:

    “It has been four months, yet no one has been arrested.”

    Does CPD even have detectives on staff anymore, or is it all just regular officers? This, combined with the low rate of solving murders in one of the best-funded police departments in the nation…what the heck is going on here?

  3. - Perrid - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 11:33 am:

    The argument is that diversity required them to kick the guardian of half their kids off the committee? Someone tried to say that with a straight face?

  4. - Responsa - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 11:50 am:

    When diversity on the committees and advisory boards becomes more important as a stated goal than actually serving and defending the children who are in immediate trouble it is a problem. A big problem.

  5. - Rudy’s teeth - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:01 pm:

    Calling DCFS to report on suspected child abuse was a traumatic experience for this mandated reporter. After noting signs and comments from the child, I met with the principal to share my observations. As I wanted a witness, I placed the call from her office and relayed the details to DCFS.

    They noted the information and said they would follow through with an investigation. Never received report from DCFS. That call and report was an experience I will never forget. Innocent children as victims.

  6. - EssentialWorkingMom - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:31 pm:

    Correcting the dysfunction within DCFS needs to go further than just allowing dissenting viewpoints to be heard. If the people in these advisory board groups that are being allowed to come to the table aren’t making the decisions and taking the best actions to protect the vulnerable victims, then why are they there? No matter how diverse their members are, if they aren’t wanting to take the actions to fix things, then how about they get out of the way for people who do. I read the article from CBS 2 and it turns my stomach to think that the abuser is living free while the victim is institutionalized, not even getting into how awful it is that this wasn’t the victim’s first experience with this trauma and DCFS failed her those other times too. DCFS is broken, and I know it’s easy to sit here and be an armchair quarterback, but how about getting some real decision makers in to these board seats that will that not only care about protecting victims but actually follow through with doing the work that makes sure children are being protected. Stating the obvious here, but action and accountability lead to changes, and whatever the previous advisory board members were doing, or weren’t doing, obviously was not good enough.

  7. - Sargeant Schultz - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:32 pm:

    It was indeed the worst report ever by an inspector general, and the first I recall that was not issued to the press, atleast I saw scant coverage.

    One of these days, Dave McKinney or some intrepid reporter is going to start asking questions about how a guy from Joliet with no prior experience in child welfare became acting inspector general. Perhaps they will ask acting DCFS director Marc Smith, who also just happens to be from Joliet, a former employee of Aunt Martha’s, which Governor Pritzker just happened to visit six days ago for a press pop.

    It’s a small world, after all.

    To understand the concerns of the Cook County public Guardian, you really need to see the dashboard that shows how all of the contractual agencies managed by DCFS are performing. I would suggest starting with a list of the CWAC members, FOIA their contracts, and then FOIA the performance data for those performance-based contracts for the last five years.

  8. - Concerned - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:36 pm:

    Agree Responsa……very sad state of affairs, and Rudy’s teeth…….I had the same experience…

  9. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:59 pm:

    There are literally hundreds of positions at DCFS that are not currently filled. There are a lot problems at DCFS, but exploring why the agency has failed to fill hundreds of appropriated positions is pretty down to earth when it comes to identifying the agency’s abysmal failure to hire, recruit, and train the staff which has been allocated to them.

  10. - Anonymous - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 2:21 pm:

    Sargeant Schultz, your questions are spot on, and I wish more people were asking them. Maybe if this was a normal news cycle and COVID wasn’t taking place,then these issues would get more coverage. Please keep asking those questions though.

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