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Auditor General documents more DCFS failures

Thursday, May 12, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

Illinois’ long-troubled child welfare agency under Gov. J.B. Pritzker has failed to ensure adequate care for children in its charge and has not properly tracked cases referred to it by people who are legally required to report suspicions of abuse or neglect, according to a newly released audit of the agency.

The audit of the Department of Children and Family Services found failures to conduct required home safety checks before children are returned to their parents; to provide follow-up services for the required six months after a child leaves the agency’s care; and to make sure children in DCFS care are receiving appropriate medical checkups and immunizations, according to Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino’s report.

The audit, which covered the 2020 calendar year, also found that the agency’s records system is unable to track or identify service referrals that fall under a recent state law requiring DCFS to treat a report of abuse or neglect as a referral for services when it is made by a legally mandated reporter, such as a teacher, and there is a documented prior case of abuse or neglect or an open investigation involving anyone in the household. […]

“What the hell were they doing?” Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert said of that finding. “That’s the most basic, essential thing that you do when you have a report that children are at risk. Everything else flows from the safety assessment.”

* From the summary

• Home Safety Checklists are home safety assessments and educational tools that assist in promoting the safety of children. A Home Safety Checklist is to be completed by DCFS whenever it is determined by a court that a child that has been court ordered into foster or substitute care can return to the custody of the parent or guardian. DCFS was unable to provide 192 of the 195 (98%) required Home Safety Checklists within our sample. Additionally, according to DCFS’ website, Home Safety Checklists had still not been updated with required new language as of March 16, 2022.

• Aftercare services are to be provided to the child and child’s family by DCFS or a purchase of service agency, and shall begin on the date upon which the child is returned to the custody or guardianship of the parent or guardian. However, DCFS did not ensure that children and families were receiving the recommended aftercare services for the required six months upon family reunification. Of the 50 cases tested, 29 (58%) did not have at least six months of documented aftercare services, according to information within DCFS’ system of record. In addition, aftercare services procedures were not updated to reflect the new requirements within Public Act 101-0237 until December 28, 2020, almost an entire year after the effective date of the Act.

• Children in DCFS’ care are not receiving their well-child visits/ check-ups as required by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Public Health’s administrative rules, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services handbook for providers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, as well as DCFS’ own procedures. Of the 50 cases tested within each category, 9 (18%) were missing at least one physical examination, 7 (14%) were missing at least one vision screening, 28 (56%) were missing at least one hearing screening, and 44 (88%) were missing at least one dental exam, according to data within DCFS’ system of record. There were also numerous data entry errors and inconsistent data entry locations for dates when services were received.

• Auditors attempted to review 50 cases to ensure that children were up to date on their age-appropriate immunizations. However, after reviewing 10 cases, it was determined that the immunizations data within DCFS’ system of record was unreliable for testing. DCFS was able to provide hard copy medical records showing that only nine influenza vaccinations were actually missing.

• The system of record for DCFS, the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS), is unable to track or identify child welfare service referrals and child protective investigations that are initiated as a result of the new requirements pursuant to Public Act 101-0237. Because DCFS was unable to provide a population, auditors were unable to test for compliance with the Public Act.

• When reviewing the organizational chart data provided by DCFS, auditors determined that 3,291 (55%) of the 6,037 positions listed within DCFS’ Operations divisions are categorized as unfunded. Of the 2,746 positions that are categorized as funded, 573 (21%) are vacant.

* The full report contains some sharp retorts from the auditors to the agency’s responses. For instance, here’s the DCFS response to the auditor’s recommendation that DCFS “should review the unfunded positions within its organizational chart data, and update the organizational charts accordingly in order to more accurately reflect staffing needs”

It is important to note that the number of positions necessary to fulfill the mission of DCFS is driven by caseload ratios that have been established for decades and are covered by a consent decree.

From the auditor

The B.H. Consent Decree requires that a caseworker be assigned no more than 12 new cases per month for 9 months of a year, and no more than 15 new cases per month for the remaining 3 months of the year. However, DCFS has not been in compliance with this provision of the B.H. Consent Decree since at least FY15 through FY20

There’s lots more, so go read the whole thing if you can.


  1. - OneMan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 3:35 pm:

    Here is a highlight (this is out of 10 cases reviewed) from page 18 of the pdf or page number xiv

    Two children receiving well over the total recommended number of
    vaccinations for their ages (one receiving 36 and the other receiving 41);

     One child only receiving 5 vaccinations instead of the approximately 28
    recommended for the child’s age;
     Four children receiving between 6 and 8 total Hepatitis B vaccinations, when
    the most that should be given is 4;
     One child receiving 8 Poliovirus vaccinations, when only 4 should be
    administered; and
     Five children receiving between 5 and 6 Chicken Pox/Varicella vaccinations
    when only 2 should be administered.

  2. - James McIntyre Fan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 3:35 pm:

    98% of kids did not have a home safety checklist completed.

    Does anyone in management there understand the organization’s mission?

    Importantly, how did the DCFS Inspector General fail to notice that while reviewing child death cases?

  3. - Back to the Future - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 3:42 pm:

    I did go to read the report, but settled on the cover letter and the Department’s responses.
    Got a very solid idea that Team Pritzker and the Director of DCFS failed these children.
    I realize that a court has already issued 9 contempt citations on the Director, but the courts need to go further into overseeing Team Pritzker and this Director.
    Very sad situation.

  4. - James McIntyre Fan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 3:56 pm:

    @OneMan -

    That should have been reason to fire the DCFS Guardian.

    Who is the Deputy Governor over DCFS?

  5. - OneMan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 3:58 pm:

    I think some of this is beyond “refresher training” at this point.

    Also the next statute at the Capitol Complex needs to be something that honors the State Auditors (past/present and future).

    I read a decent chunk of the report, I know what needs to be done isn’t easy, but it seems like something we can do with a little bit of will.

    If I was a billionaire governor (or not a billionaire governor, just governor) I think I would make getting this right my life’s mission. What a legacy to leave behind, much more important than some plant someplace or another road.

  6. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 3:58 pm:

    Continued agency issues that the governor faces are now piling up by the measure of documentation.

    Governors own. There’s a great deal here.

  7. - just a pawn - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:03 pm:

    my daycare told a foster kid they couldn’t attend anymore because DCFS hasnt paid them for months, has no phone numbers, and higher ups at dcfs don’t answer emails. real sad.

  8. - MyTwoCents - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:31 pm:

    OneMan’s comment is not completely accurate. It’s missing some context from the same page:
    “The data contained numerous errors including
    children receiving well over the total recommended number of vaccinations for their ages. Examples of errors identified during the review of ten cases include…”

    Those are not accurate records of vaccinations, those are problems with the DCFS computer system. As the audit states, “DCFS was able to provide hard copy medical records showing that, out of all the missing vaccinations that auditors identified, only nine influenza vaccinations were actually missing, with four of those possibly missing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  9. - Socially DIstant watcher - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:39 pm:

    Among other things, DCFS needs more money and more staff. How bad to things have to get before the agency can grow to meet the need?

  10. - James McIntyre Fan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:43 pm:

    @Al -

    Dont blame the union for management’s messes.

  11. - James McIntyre Fan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:44 pm:

    Only upside is maybe we will be treated to another Jason Irvin press conference.

  12. - Steve Polite - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:46 pm:


    While I never understood why PSAs, as supervisors of union positions, were allowed to join the union, I disagree with your premise that PSAs being in the union are causing DCFS’s problems or any other agency for that matter. Front line supervisors are rarely the cause of any institutional problems. Usually it’s upper management and poor executive leadership and decision making in my opinion. With most agencies much of the issues have been related to understaffing and underfunding.

    Do you have any facts or data showing that moving PSAs into the union is directly responsible for causing all these problems or removing PSAs from the union will instantly solve all these problems with DCFS?

  13. - OneMan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 4:55 pm:

    My Two Cents, I would suggest you read your own quote. (bolding mine)

    Those are not accurate records of vaccinations, those are problems with the DCFS computer system. As the audit states, “DCFS was able to provide hard copy medical records showing that, out of all the missing vaccinations that auditors identified, only nine influenza vaccinations were actually missing, with four of those possibly missing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Did I mention influenza vaccinations? The word Missing is the key word there, there is no reference to the excessive vaccinations. Out of the four bullet points, only one involves a missing vaccination and references 5 received vs 28 expected. I am guessing they are not missing 23 influenza vaccinations.

  14. - vern - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 5:18 pm:

    I have a hard time assigning all the blame to “Team Pritzker” as Back to the Future did. This audit happened because of a law passed and signed in Pritzker’s first year. I think Pritzker has been generally lackadaisical about executive department oversight, but DCFS’s problems are much older than 3 years and wouldn’t be untangled right now even if Pritzker had devoted his entire term just to that. For an organization this big and dysfunctional, blame distribution is easy but not especially helpful.

    What is helpful is the way the Auditor General approached this. It’s clear that the systemic culture at DCFS is highly resistant to this type of oversight. There are only two ways to fix that: consistent effective pressure, or fire everyone. Firing everyone isn’t practical for an organization this size, so the performance of current staff at every level needs to improve. That means incentivizing honest dealings with auditors and disincentivizing dishonesty. There’s no question that some people obfuscated with the auditor. I think this report makes clear that false or absent data will be worse for everyone than data showing a poor performance. Ratcheting up the blame game will only encourage CYA instincts at every level, which is the worst thing for kids right now.

  15. - thisjustinagain - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 6:12 pm:

    To Steve Polite: In some cases, supervisors are NOT considered management because no decision to hire, fire, or discipline is made on their own. The supervisors must receive approval from senior management or other departments, such as Human Resources. So supervisors get tired of being called by a meaningless title, getting flack from both employees and management, or being denied overtime because they’re “supervisors/management.” So they band together and file to unionize, and often win the battle. Blaming the supervisors for DCFS’ issues is a joke; they have no power to change anything important. The rot starts at the top, and Team Pritzker needed to do far better than they have in finding the right person to make major changes. “Blame unions and unionized workers” is the same tired saw of the Rauner gang.

  16. - Sunshyne40 - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 6:17 pm:

    @Al if they take PSAs out of the union those jobs would be harder to fill. Workers are in fear for their livelihood and don’t want to take that chance especially if they still have awhile before retirement.

  17. - RNUG - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 6:50 pm:

    Shaking my head … this is a complete (military term).

    This IS the Governor’s Waterloo.

    It’s probably beyond fixing at this point; time to surrender and start over. Fire everyone except those processing the vouchers, and make everyone reapply for their job. I MIGHT make an exception for the current Director because he is a professional with relevant experience, but at this point I’m not sure even he should survive.

    If you want to minimize disruption, stagger it so the firings / reapplication process only applies to 25% of staff each year for the next 4 years. Knowing that was coming should motivate the staff.

    And if the Governor doesn’t act, the General Assembly should.

    I don’t say this lightly. I say this with having had various family / extended family members who worked at the agency a combined total of 95+ years, one of them 45 years from when it was just a division of Mental Health.

  18. - RNUG - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 6:53 pm:

    Adding … and yes, I know there are good people at DCFS. To mix metaphors, some babies will get thrown out with the bath water. But drastic problems require drastic solutions.

  19. - ESR - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 8:08 pm:

    RNUG: I’ve always respected your input. I hope those comments were born of rash emotion and even your follow up comments were not your rational thoughts. Firstly, you might make an exception for the director but fire the rank and file? Have you ever even worked for the state?

  20. - RNUG - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 8:59 pm:

    -ESR- I spent 32+ years plus return 75 day contracts working for the State under both professional Directors and resume punching political hacks. Probably adds to up 35 or more years total. Most of the time I was middle management holding a SPSA title. I’ve seen how things could get done when you had the will (sometimes political) to do so, and how things can be blocked from getting done. I’ve seen motivated employees (partially) succeed in spite of bad management or lack of funding. And I’ve seen what happens when your workforce is demoralized. Right now I think DCFS is functioning in spite of itself.

    Never worked for DCFS but I’ve seen it when it functioned at least reasonably well. Those family I alluded to were in middle and upper managemen, making things work. Even from the outside now, I guess I’ve just reached my disgust level with all the problems at the agency.

    The reason I would, MAYBE, exempt the current Director is that they do have a professional track record of success elsewhere and haven’t had as free a hand or unlimited resources they needed to fix things. If the State could find someone better, then hire them.

    If you’ve been following my various observations (and occasional rants) about DCFS over the past year or two, you know I have espoused appointing a professional Director to a 10 year term that can only be fired by a vote of the GA … and giving them both extraordinary funding and broad authority to change everything that needs changing.

    But this latest report was the last straw for me … the State should be able to do much, much better.

  21. - RNUG - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 9:01 pm:

    I don’t see my longer supply, but yes, worked many years.

  22. - OneMan - Thursday, May 12, 22 @ 10:06 pm:

    “I have a hard time assigning all the blame to “Team Pritzker” ”

    I am not sure all of the blame belongs there, but there has now been ample time for some improvement and it has been lacking. The referenced law was passed at the beginning of his term, so there has been some time for improvement.

    No use of the bully pulpit to push for more funding, to call out legislators if it hasn’t been coming. It seems when it comes to DCFS the administration has been reactive, not proactive.

    I freely admit I do not understand the intricacies of state government, but the whole ‘funded’ vs ‘unfunded’ position thing, seems like something that can be straightened out in fairly quick order and is a useful metric and talking point. “We need to hire X people in DCFS in order to get to a minimum needed to protect the state’s most precious resource, our children”.

    I think if someone in the GOP primary picked this up and ran with it, it would be helpful in them picking up some suburban votes. Protecting mistreated children is something that everyone can get behind.

    Between this and the delay in getting out to the veterans’ home during COVID revelations, it has not been a good week for illustrating departmental leadership for the administration.

    In the words of OW, Governors Own.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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