Nearly 100 Illinois children who died within the last two years were involved with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services. That’s according to a recent Inspector General report.
The department’s Inspector General looked into 98 cases in which a child died while DCFS had been keeping an eye on them.
The majority of the deaths were either accidents or from natural causes, but nearly twenty were homicides. The agency’s inspector general’s office says more than half of the deaths involved children younger than two.
Past Inspector General reports reveal the seemingly-high number to be average by comparison. Within the last 10 years, between 84 and 113 children have died while being supervised in some capacity by DCFS.
Claire Stewart is with the ACLU of Illinois, which has been closely monitoring DCFS since a judge ordered changes there in 1991. In all that time, she says, child death rates have remained high.
“The fact that it’s not getting better is reflective of the fact that the system hasn’t improved, and that it needs to improve,” she said.
Stewart says the high number of deaths show the department is broken.
“The goal is to put whatever preventative measures in place and provide services to families and kids in advance of it even reaching anywhere near this point," she said. "Our goal would be for the report['s numbers] to be zero.”
Advocates like Stewart say the agency has been hamstrung by high turnover at the top. Since 2013, the department has had at least eight temporary directors.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker called for increasing the agency’s budget by more than $70 million — some of which would be used to hire more front-line staff.
The Inspector General's report also calls for changes in how cases are reviewed and incidents are reported.