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DCFS director held in contempt for 11th time

Friday, May 20, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller


The director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has once again been held in contempt of court.

This is the eleventh time Marc Smith has been held in contempt since January 2022.

This time, Smith is accused of failing to place an 11-year-old girl appropriately in violation of court orders.

According to the Cook County Public Guardian, The eleventh contempt order involves an 11-year-old girl who has been in DCFS’ care since she was 5 years old. In the six years the girl has been in DCFS’ care, she has bounced back and forth between abusive foster homes, emergency foster homes, psychiatric hospitals, residential placements, shelters, and hospital emergency rooms. Since January 2022, DCFS’ own clinicians have recommended a secure residential placement for the girl. Yet, on April 12, 2022, the girl was taken to a hospital emergency room after making suicidal statements at school, and attempting to place a noose around her neck. On April 14, 2022, the court entered an order directing DCFS Director Smith to remove the 11-year-old from the emergency room by the end of the day, and either place her in a psychiatric hospital or a secure residential facility. Despite the court’s order, the girl remained in the emergency room for another two days before being moved to her current temporary shelter placement. During her four day stay in the emergency room, the 11-year-old made repeated suicidal statements, attempted to run out of the hospital, was physically aggressive, and required five emergency medication restraints to calm her down.

* CBS 2

Months earlier, DCFS placed the child in a foster home. Judge Murphy warned against it, saying something bad was going to happen. It did. The child repeatedly stabbed the foster parent, whose injuries were treated with stitches.

DCFS says several secure residential treatment centers refuse to accept this fifth grader because of the violent act. And said it can not force residential programs to take in youth.

Judge Murphy pointed out DCFS is supposed to be set up to care for difficult children, yet it then argues it can’t get a child placed because he or she is difficult.

DCFS spokesman Bill McCaffrey issued a statement late Thursday, saying the agency has, in fact, placed the child appropriately:

“This youth is no longer in a psychiatric hospital and DCFS has, in fact, placed this youth in a clinically appropriate setting where she is receiving supportive services and is attending school every day. DCFS is in constant contact with its network of providers and foster parents in an ongoing effort to place children in clinically appropriate settings. Because it is doing everything possible to place these children, DCFS has taken and continues to take the legal position that these contempt orders are not appropriate and has appealed to a higher court to overturn these orders as expediently as possible.”

Hey. I have an idea. How about getting these kids placed before the contempt citations are issued? Then again, maybe the contempt citations are actually helping get the kids placed, which means that the state’s attempt to overturn them might be counter-productive.


  1. - Publius - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 10:21 am:

    Again like the prior article what is the root cause of the problem. Why was this child in DCFS care since 5 years old? You can’t develop a solution without understanding the problem.

  2. - Tood Aloo - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 10:29 am:

    If I’m not mistaken, 11 gets the 12th free.

  3. - SWSider - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 10:46 am:

    This is truly blood boiling story and is heartbreaking. That poor child.

    I hope this gets the outrage (and not from stupid political press releases) it deserves (front page headlines, news stories) very soon.

  4. - Honeybear - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 10:52 am:

    Willy Wonka didn’t make the Chocolate.
    The Oompa Loompas did.

    Marc Smith although responsible as leadership
    Cannot fulfill the functions of DCFS

    Workers do

    And even though Leadership is hiring new employees as best they can.
    It’s too little, too late.
    The workforce is collapsing.

    Last night at my Local State Employees Union meeting
    I saw DCFS union siblings who were in the worse shape than I’ve ever seen them in my 8 years knowing them.

    They are simply exhausted with overwork
    The promised new employees won’t be online for months
    And the ones now ready are mostly clerical.

    And with over 7000 currently open positions in state government when we were already the smallest state government per capita during the Rauner years, DCFS is not the only agency workforce about to collapse.

    Wail and Nash your teeth all you want at Leadership
    But I’m telling you
    A slow motion shut down
    Is about to become
    A screeching halt.

  5. - JamesRMcIntyre - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 10:57 am:

    When will the Department release a strategic plan? When will the department have a coordinated foster parent recruitment strategy? I’m tired of the games. I’m tired of the excuses. I’m tired of the BS. Although these articles are important they don’t even scratch the surface. Action and oversight is way overdue. DCFS is in constant crisis and the only people who are negatively effected by this are the abused and neglected children. I encourage every elected member to go out speak with a foster parent, speak with a parent who is fighting to get their children back, talk with a young person living in a psychiatric hospital, talk with a child who’s been in a residential way past the time they could step down.

  6. - Back to the Future - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 11:05 am:

    Team Pritzker is going to appeal these contempt citations as they think that the court orders are inappropriate?
    This response reminds me of the Pritzker response to the Veterans Home problems when JBP said “Stuff Happens” in response to that disaster.

  7. - zatoichi - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 11:15 am:

    WICS story has suicidal threats, aggression, and using 5 meds to control behavior. Implications seems to be DCFS is just not trying very hard. CBS2 has child repeatedly stabbing foster parents and says residential programs cannot be forced to take in youth. This implies not enough specialized programs for very serious problems. Will more contempt citations bring more money from GA to create more specialized programs needed or will it just make more headlines?

  8. - Bruce( no not him) - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 11:23 am:

    == 11 gets the 12th free.==
    I think it’s get a dozen, 13th free.
    Will he make it to lucky 13th?

  9. - Candy Dogood - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:00 pm:

    === During her four day stay in the emergency room===

    This is really not what Emergency Rooms are intended to do.

    === How about getting these kids placed before the contempt citations are issued?===

    This kind of placement issue has been a problem for a long time, it’s just been getting a lot worse as the agency still lacks the staffing and ability to utilize the resources that have been allocated in budgets in order to perform its mission.

    Prtizker has had more than three years at this point and all he can really point to is relatively recent staffing increases. He really needs to give the public a run down of everything that’s been done in the last three years of his term to address DCFS and be able to show us that he started his work before the contempt charges were filed.

  10. - Honeybear - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:10 pm:

    You know nothing says the Pritzker administration can’t bargain with AFSCME to increase certain titles pay at DCFS. That would both attract new frontline investigators and maintain the seasoned veterans, which we are currently loosing to burnout.

    I stand by the believe that it’s the
    caseload, multiplied exponentially by the pandemic
    Loss of seasoned investigators/caseworkers to burnout.
    That are at play here
    Incompetent investigators/caseworkers
    ( maybe incompetent management)
    But the actionable point I’m making
    Is this.

    Increase the pay substantially of the frontline.

    We need the best workers able to do their best work
    Fully staffed and supported.

    Or the work simply won’t get done.

    It’s a simple common sense solution.

    It’s just so “on brand” for both sides to scream and yell at each other, while the workers at the front, doing their absolute best every day against horrific odds, are totally ignored.

    It’s performative and infuriating to us actually
    working for the state.

  11. - thisjustinagain - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:26 pm:

    Honeybear for the win. Sadly. I mean, those in the trenches know the harsh reality of working for the State. As someone who had to sue the State more than once to enforce decades-old court orders against DHS and HFS, the farce of 11 contempt citations proves the failure of multiple administrations of both parties to solve the DCFS nightmare. But now it’s on JB’s desk, and….(crickets).

  12. - Trying to be Rational - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:26 pm:

    I’m just an occasional reader here so this question may have been answered before. Can the judge hold the Director in jail for Contempt until the specific problem is fixed? I know that doesn’t fix this entire mess.

  13. - Just Sayin - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:28 pm:

    It’s 12:30 and I am surprised Kyle Hillman hasn’t weighed in yet.

  14. - Just Sayin - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:28 pm:

    And John Sullivan got fired for one measly email?

  15. - James McIntyre Fan - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 12:47 pm:

    First of all, welcome to the conversation James McIntyre.

    Listen to what he says, he knows.

    I feel Honeybear’s frustration, but the two are not disconnected. The vacancies at DCFS are a direct result of Smith’s failed leadership. DCFS pays social workers better than just about everyone else in Illinois, and yet no one leaving college or at another agency wants to work for Smith.

    The contempt orders, the stories of Black children being shackled, these are not helping employee recruitment, Honeybear. I imagine they are not helping morale or staff retirements and turnover either. Neither has Smith’s efforts to purge the agency of respected child welfare leaders in other management posts.

  16. - Commisar Gritty - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 1:33 pm:

    200% behind Honeybear’s ideas. We occasionally help people when they come to our district office. I often have them check CMS to see if there are state postings. The postings for DCFS caseworkers have been up for years without interruption. Give them a living wage and they might be able to actually fill those positions.

  17. - Commisar Gritty - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 1:36 pm:

    And to counter James McIntyre Fan’s earlier comment here, those vacancies long predate Smith taking over in the middle of ‘19

  18. - Commisar Gritty - Friday, May 20, 22 @ 1:37 pm:

    Haha whoops just caught a mistake I wanted to clarify. Meant to say “occasionally help people find jobs”, we’re helping people out of our DO every day.

    Who gets an edit button first, Capfax or Twitter?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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