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Audit Finds Numerous Problems At DCFS; Lawmakers Taking Hard Look At 'Intact Families' Policy

State Rep. Anna Moeller, at podium, said she was born with opiods in her system. She considers herself lucky the state took her away from her mother.

An audit released Tuesday paints a damning picture of Illinois’ child-welfare agency.

The audit follows several high-profile deaths of kids the Department of Children and Family Services had been monitoring.

There are a lot of bad statistics: Between 2014 and 2017, the agency's annual abuse and neglect caseload went up by thousands. At the same time, the child abuse hotline was so busy that more than half of callers had to leave a message.

James McIntyre, head of the Illinois Chapter of the Foster Care Alumni of America, focused on the 26 percent of sampled cases where abuse or neglect was indicated, but there was no referral to community services.

“Now what that says in normal people talk is: We left families alone. We left families stranded,” McIntyre said. “We let that kid know that their voice does not matter, and that although, yes, abuse is wrong, we as a state said, ‘It’s OK, we don’t need to offer services, we don't need to offer support.’”

Hours after the audit was released, a group of Democratic state representatives held a news conference at which they pledged to address the agency‘s problems.

Some lawmakers said it’s time to reassess DCFS’ priorities, including its focus on keeping families intact.

State Rep. Anna Moeller, a Democrat from Elgin, said she was exposed to opiates in the womb. She counts herself as lucky since the state took her away from her birth mother, allowing her to be raised by her grandparents.

“A.J. (Freund) was left in the custody of his birth parents, who apparently had similar drug problems (to Moeller’s mother), who now are accused of beating him to death,” Moeller said.

“It’s clear that the state failed A.J. and it’s clear that we must make changes and fix our child protective care system. Our main priority must be what is best for the child, even if that means removing him or her from their parents,” she said.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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