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Do better, DCFS

Thursday, Jan 27, 2022

* The SJ-R ran a story this week on safety and de-escalation training for DCFS frontline employees, in the wake of the recent murder of a DCFS worker, and presented conflicting claims which were left up in the air...

[American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch] pointed out that training for [DCFS] workers on threat identification and de-escalation had initially been planned. Management developed training with Illinois State Police and trained trainers but didn’t launch staff training, Lynch said. […]

[William McCaffrey, a spokesperson for DCFS] said de-escalation training is included in safety training that all new hires undergo.

All investigators go through a six weeks “foundations” training, which includes safety as part of it, he said. Once an investigator reports to the field, the investigator continues on-the-job training with his or her supervisor, which includes safety modeling.

Within 90 days of their start date, all investigators are required to complete workplace and field safety training, McCaffrey added.

The agency also has safety reboot training that covers the safety for the child and investigator. The training was put in place and mandatory for all staff in July 2019, he said.

* I reached out to Anders Lindall at Council 31 yesterday and he offered this explanation…

The “foundations” training McCaffrey refers to is online due to COVID. It is only for new hires.

The ISP deescalation training was supposed to be in-person and for everyone. It is now also only on video and only for new hires.

Clearly we are talking about in-person safety-specific training in threat assessment and de-escalation for everyone. That doesn’t exist now.

A real world example: a few years ago in the Cairo office an employee was attacked by an angry mom with a knife. The employee just happened to have come from previously working in IDOC so she had been trained in self-defense tactics.

She covered her heart with her hand and was stabbed in the hand. She turned off the lights and dropped to the floor to make it more difficult for the attacker to get to her until another employee heard and came to her assistance.

Employees need better training and tools to be safe in the field. We have a comprehensive list of such essential measure that we’re seeking. We d a legislative briefing via Zoom with several DCFS employees and members of relevant committees on them last night in fact.

…Adding… Capitol News Illinois

An emergency housing facility at the center of court case that led to the state’s Department of Children and Family Services director being held in contempt of court was the subject of 161 service calls to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department in 2021.

The 12-bed facility is the Southern Thirty Adolescent Center near Mount Vernon. It is run by Lutheran Children and Family Services, and has a $1.9 million contract to house children in DCFS custody aged 11 to 17.

The facility is designed as a temporary shelter, offering children access to educational, mental health and other appropriate services for up to 30 days.

But DCFS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the average stay there is 107 days.

It’s the same facility where DCFS placed a 13-year-old boy, identified only as C.R.M. in court documents, in emergency custody for months despite a judge’s order to move him to a more appropriate setting. Earlier this month Cook County Judge Patrick T. Murphy cited DCFS Director Marc Smith for contempt for failing to relocate the boy to a therapeutic foster home.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

6 Comments
  1. - Corn Fed Data Guy - Thursday, Jan 27, 22 @ 2:33 pm:

    There is zero reason to not perform this training in person. This is stuff you can’t learn from watching a video.


  2. - EBlocRebel - Thursday, Jan 27, 22 @ 3:10 pm:

    These stories are prime examples how direct-line workers need to be able to craft a message on how their job is done and the ramifications of it. Noone wants to disclose PHI or put family drama on blast, but so many voices are silenced in the immense work it takes to do this job. To have both quality and efficient work, the budget of DCFS would need to triple. Or, law enforcement will need to beef up their ranks to have an accompanying officer at EVERY first knock, follow-up, protective custody, etc… Just saying “call us, and we’ll be there” is not a reality in many jurisdictions.


  3. - Reality Check - Thursday, Jan 27, 22 @ 4:03 pm:

    DCFS employees do not want to have law enforcement accompanying them at all times. Child protection investigators are social workers. The best outcome of any interaction with a family is to keep that family intact and give them the resources they need for both kids and parents to thrive. Showing up with police while sometimes necessary for safety is in many cases not conducive to getting the most out of that interaction.


  4. - Been There - Thursday, Jan 27, 22 @ 6:19 pm:

    ==== She covered her heart with her hand and was stabbed in the hand. She turned off the lights and dropped to the floor to make it more difficult for the attacker to get to her until another employee heard and came to her assistance.====
    Wow. Unfortunately this is the world we live in and these methods need to be taught.
    Who would have thought that training for a job would be to learn how to put your hand over your chest to stop someone from stabbing you.


  5. - Candy Dogood - Thursday, Jan 27, 22 @ 11:46 pm:

    ===The 12-bed […] $1.9 million contract===

    $158,333.34 per bed every year?

    That seems a little steep. That’s $3,044.87 per bed per week. Are we absolutely certain this isn’t something that would be better handled by the State of Illinois directly?

    I’m certain other components of the care and attention the children staying there are being billed to different funding sources.


  6. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Friday, Jan 28, 22 @ 8:30 am:

    Should DCFS workers be given body armor (like with police officers) to wear on the job? I’m wondering if feasible that this should be considered (after the tragedy in Thayer earlier this month and reading about the stabbing in Cairo).


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