Did you know EdGlenToday.com is free for you thanks to our awesome advertisers? We noticed you're using an ad block software. Help us spread the word and give our sponsors some exposure by disabling your ad blocking service for Riverbender.com.
style="font-size: 12px;">Illinois' Department of Child and Family Services pressured caseworkers looking into child abuse to keep children with their families even after allegations of mistreatment and neglect, according to a new report.
Experts from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago were asked by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to examine the Department of Child and Family Services to identify systemic factors within the agency that led to child deaths and other problems.
The report released Wednesday found “avoidance of removals, supervisory misalignment, ineffective checks and balances” and other issues within the department's Intact Family Services program, which tried to avoid the trauma of family separation.
“Over the last five years, Intact cases represented 15 percent of the 41 deaths included in the OIG’s Death and Serious Injury Investigations,” according to the Chapin Hall report.
Pritzker blamed the issues on a failure to properly fund the Department of Child and Family Services.
“Government has been truly hollowed out in a way that is obviously resulting in terrible neglect, abuse and even death,” he said Wednesday.
Pritzker said that the department is on board with Chapin Hall’s recommended changes.
“We will be adopting every recommendation in this report with as much expediency as possible,” the governor said.
Illinois has the lowest foster care entry rate in the country, partly due to Intact, according to the report.
The department is in the process of adding 126 new caseworkers after it was found that the existing caseworkers were charged with handling more investigations that they were legally allowed to take on, according to a report by the Illinois Auditor General.
“In the weeks I’ve been at DCFS, it’s clear that the department is facing a number of challenges, many that are decades old, but our team is committed to serving the state’s most vulnerable children – and I know that everyone in the child welfare system wants to do better,” said acting DCFS director Marc Smith.
Illinois’ 734 investigation and alternative response workers completed an average of 101 reports in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The national average was 72. DCFS has 1,100 open investigations, Pritzker said.
The department has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after the deaths of several children who were being looked after by caseworkers.
Five-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund Jr. was found dead in a shallow grave in April despite repeated visits to the boy's family by a caseworker and even after finding bruising on his body, according to an auditor general's report. Prosecutors have charged the boy's parents with murder.
Sema'j Crosby, a 17-month Joliet girl, was found dead under her family's couch in 2017. She was also under DCFS supervision.
Both of those high-profile deaths led to calls for changes at the Department of Child and Family Services.