DCFS

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Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services is delaying a planned health insurance switch for children in its care, but the public guardian of the state’s largest county says there’s still a lot of work to be done.

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is once again under scrutiny, the Pritzker administration issues a budget warning, and Cook County judges reelect their leader.

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Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services plans to put all 16,000 children in its custody on Medicaid health insurance. But at a hearing Tuesday, state lawmakers expressed skepticism, saying they’re worried those kids may fall through the cracks.

Child welfare workers are calling on Illinois lawmakers to better fund private services.

Dana Vollmer / NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced plans Wednesday to overhaul the state’s troubled child welfare system. That comes after a report criticized the Department of Children and Family Services’ reluctance to remove children from their homes.

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

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers questioned Department of Children and Family Services officials Tuesday after a 2-year old Decatur girl died in February, just months after the agency closed her case. 

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

 

Lydia Fu for ProPublica Illinois / Lydia Fu for ProPublica Illinois

Hundreds of kids and teenagers are suing the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. This comes after an investigation by ProPublica Illinois found children are being kept in psychiatric hospitals longer than medically necessary.

Riddled with complaints and ethical violations, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services wants more money to address what the director called “a number of burning fires.” 

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Lawmakers are urging the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services be more transparent with the public.
 

Senate Committee
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The death of a one-year-old child in Joliet Township has Illinois' child-welfare agency on the defensive.

Department of Children and Family Services director George Sheldon testified Wednesday before a state Senate committee.

Illinois has created a network of emergency foster care homes.

Department of Children and Family Services Director George Sheldon says these homes are places youth in the state's care can be sent in lieu of emergency shelters.

Sheldon told a legislative panel Tuesday that there's currently capacity for 36 kids. His goal is to have room for 50.

"Frankly, this state had a series of emergency foster homes a decade or so ago," he said. "I don't know why that was abandoned. I think it's a much more appropriate facility."

Amanda Vinicky

Mental health centers were decimated during Illinois’ extended budget stalemate. Illinois is moving forward with plan to extend and expand behavioral health services to people who couldn't otherwise afford it, in a way that officials say will be cost-neutral to taxpayers. 

Dr. Kari Wolf says Illinois is roughly where Texas used to be.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's mission of modernizing Illinois government continues. At issue this time is a hearings process he says is outdated and overburdened.

The state gets roughly 100, 000 requests for administrative hearings each year.

"Administrative law is the body of law that regulates the operation and procedure of government agencies," says Sadzi Olivia, the chief administrative law judge for the Dept. of Children and Family Services.

If it sounds bureaucratic, that's because it is.

Sarah Mueller WUIS

Child protection investigators in Illinois can now get hands-on training in the state's capitol.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he wants to get the state out of legal agreements called consent decrees. The deals are a big part of the reason the government is still operating without a budget; they also impact the lives of thousands of Illinois residents. But unless you are affected by one, you've probably never heard of them. 

Illinois Issues: No Place To Call Home - Pt. 3

Dec 17, 2015
Kartemquin

The state budget impasse could put more young people out on the streets this winter.  

A proposal to continue government services for young adults in foster care passed the Illinois House on Thursday. Some believe it's a foreshadowing of future budget negotiations.

The state currently provides educational assistance, job training and counseling for wards of the state aged 18 to 21. But Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't include those services in next year's proposed budget.

Rather than allow the cuts, the House passed House Bill 3507, which would guarantee the programs stay. Advocates say the young adults need certainty.

Tammy Duckworth

Much of the focus of this week's political news centered on Washington D.C.  U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mark Kirk.   And with the upcoming retirement of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, there are questions whether Senator Dick Durbin will continue as Minority Whip after 2016.  Also, the latest on beleaguered former Congressman Aaron Schock.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel to discuss those and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. are the victims of domestic abuse. Some die at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect them. That's what happened to Maxwell, he was two when he died after a history of neglect and abuse that was never adequately addressed. He left behind a family who will never forget him, and a sister who has worked to cope with his passing. 

An audit has found that Illinois does a poor job monitoring and tracking children who run away from foster homes.  

Auditor General William Holland reported Thursday the Department of Children and Family Services does not keep reports on the total number of missing children in a year or their previous locations.  

In 2011 and 2012, DCFS estimated as many as 3,100 children went missing in up to 29,200 separate incidents. But they were not all runaways. They included wards of the state whose caregivers did not know their whereabouts.  

Preventable Deaths

Dec 1, 2014

This story first appeared in the March 2014 issue.

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

Boy, Christopher Valdez
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For years, they’ve shuffled across Illinois’ front pages, a parade of tragedy.

There was Christopher Valdez, 4, of Chicago’s southwest side, whose mother’s boyfriend allegedly beat him to death in 2011. Earlier, Christopher’s mother had been convicted of abusing him, but the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the courts had nonetheless allowed him to remain in her home.

WBEZ

The director of the state's child welfare agency who pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients of a Chicago social-service agency 20 years ago has resigned from his post.  

Department of Children and Family Services Director Arthur Bishop submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Pat Quinn's office Wednesday. The letter notes that his background could be a distraction for Quinn in the upcoming election.  

Richard Calica, executive director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Richard Calica’s Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is beset with problems. One Chicago Tribune investigation this spring found that investigators into suspected cases of abuse are spread too thin, putting the agency in violation of a 1991 federal consent decree that resulted from a series of lawsuits. Later, another of the newspaper’s probes showed that more than half of the day-care operations in the state weren’t inspected within a three-year licensing period.