DCFS

Daisy Contreras/NPR Illinois

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

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said in a press conference Tuesday the agency withheld reports on incidents of child abuse over the last few months. She says the agency took down the data from its website last July — a first after 35 years. “I’m certainly hoping this isn’t secrecy and trying to shroud facts about what’s going on with children," she said. 

DCFS

An Illinois law passed in 2014 was supposed to ensure that families no longer have to give up custody of their children in order to get them necessary mental health treatment. But it remains an issue to this day, and the chief sponsor of the Custody Relinquishment Prevention Act (HB5598) says several state agencies are to blame.

"Swings" By Flickr User halfrain / (CC X 2.0)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is replacing the long-time watchdog of Illinois’ troubled child welfare system.

Denise Kane has been the inspector general of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for 24 years.

But Rauner quietly announced last week that he’s replacing her at the end of the month.

Ben Wolf is with the ACLU - which has monitored DCFS under a court order for decade.

“I never doubted for a moment that her heart was focused on the best interest of the children and not on anything else,” he said.

Governor Names New DCFS Director

Jun 23, 2017
LinkedIn

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has appointed Beverly (BJ) Walker as Director of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

   

Walker has leadership and management experience from more than 30 years in human services and education.

She previously worked for the State of Illinois as Director of Community Operations for the Department of Human Services. Walker also served as Assistant to the Governor for Human Services Reform under Gov. Jim Edgar.

"Swings" By Flickr User halfrain / (CC X 2.0)

A progress report filed in federal court shows that Illinois' child welfare agency has slowly made "incremental" improvements, but concerns linger about the impact of the state's budget impasse and a "revolving door" of leadership.

DCFS Director Resigns; Rauner Names Interim

May 31, 2017
illinois.gov

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has named Lise Spacapan interim director of the Department of Children and Family Services, pending a national search for a new head of the agency.

According to a news release, current director George Sheldon will be moving out of state for a new position effective June 15. He will take on the role of President and CEO of Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc.

Spacapan currently works as General Counsel of Illinois DCFS. She received her L.L.M. in Health Law in 2014 and serves on the DePaul College of Law Health Law Institute. 

DCFS

The head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is defending the decision to leave a toddler in a Joliet Township house where she was later found dead. George Sheldon answered questions about the incident at a State Senate hearing Wednesday in Springfield.

One-year-old Semaj Crosby was found dead under a couch last Thursday. Her mother had reported her missing a couple of days earlier. Just before that, the family had been visited by a caseworker from DCFS.

Illinois Near Top In Nation For Human Trafficking Cases

Jan 4, 2017
"streetlight" by Flickr User David McGregor

Illinois ranks fifth in the nation for cases of human trafficking.

Public education efforts are underway for National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services says it investigated 143 reports of trafficking last year, many of which were child victims. 

Trafficking can happen with labor, but sex trafficking is a large component; Rockford is one of the state’s largest hubs for sex trafficking. 

However, Veronica Resa, with DCFS, says incidents can occur just about anywhere.

DCFS

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. I don't know why that was abandoned. I think it's a much more appropriate facility," Sheldon said.

illinois.gov

A federal judge has approved an improvement plan for Illinois' child welfare agency that includes reforms for helping children with psychological, emotional and behavioral problems.

U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso signed off on the overhaul on Wednesday. The roughly 60-page document is part of a longtime consent decree aimed at improving care. It follows an American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois lawsuit.

"Swings" By Flickr User halfrain / (CC X 2.0)

A record number of youth have been killed while in the care of Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services, many of them victims of Chicago's gang violence.

The Chicago Tribune reports 11 youths died during a two-year period that ended June 30, 2015.

A confidential Office of the Inspector General report obtained by the newspaper notes societal problems such as poverty played a role. It also identifies failures in the state system.

Many teens were placed for long periods in emergency shelters or in homes located in rival gang territories.

Audit Finds Flaws In DCFS Tracking Systems

Sep 8, 2016
"Keyboard" By Flickr User Jeroen Bennink / (CC BY 2.0)

A new audit of Illinois’ child welfare system shows the state’s long-troubled Department of Children and Family Services is not tracking some basic data about where children are being placed.

Every year - DCFS leaves kids in places where they shouldn’t be.

They stay locked up in juvenile detention centers even though they’re free to go.

And they remain in hospitals for mental health needs even though it’s no longer medically necessary.

But a new audit shows DCFS isn’t tracking how often that happens.

illinois.gov

The head of Illinois' child welfare agency says the 2014 shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer has spurred more focus in how the agency handles cases of troubled youths.

Department of Children and Family Services Director George Sheldon says since police footage was released in November, agency workers have gone through thousands of pages of documents relating to Laquan McDonald, who was a state ward for most of his 17 years.

Sheldon says the agency has changed how workers review cases like McDonald's.

Loyola University School of Law

Illinois’s child welfare agency wants to do a better job taking care of its most troubled kids - and they have a plan.

The idea is that kids who have suffered abuse or witnessed violence would be placed with families with no more than two wards per home. The parents in these foster homes would get special training and at least one would stay home full time.

aclu-il.org

An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union says he’s hopeful Illinois’ troubled child welfare system will make some big changes.

The ACLU’s Ben Wolf is at the center of an ongoing class action lawsuit over how the Department of Children and Family Services treats kids in its care.

“For children with behavioral and psychological challenges, there just aren’t the services they need, and the result of that is they’re left languishing in correctional centers and shelters and all sorts of places that just aren’t the right place to spend your childhood,” Wolf said.

DCFS: 'We Have Stepped Up Our Game' On Runaway Kids

Jul 30, 2015
DCFS

Illinois’s child welfare agency says it’s doing a better job of tracking youth who run away.

That’s after an audit showed the Department of Children and Family Services was failing to keep tabs on those young people.

George Sheldon, the head of the agency, says runaways tend to be teenagers who have low self-esteem with few relatives to turn to - and sometimes are victims of human trafficking.

“These are the perfect victims,” Sheldon said. “So I think we have stepped up our game.”

aclu-il.org

Illinois’s Department of Children and Family Services is telling contractors to be ready to make cuts if political leaders ever agree on a spending plan.

A federal judge told DCFS to provide the same level of services as it had in June, until the governor and legislators approve a budget.

But DCFS is pre-emptively telling its contractors to also get ready for 10 percent cuts - though there is no budget guiding that.

Ben Wolf is with the American Civil Liberties Union and has sued DCFS over its quality of care before.

New DCFS Director Struggling To Defend Cuts

Mar 18, 2015
DCFS

The new director of Illinois’ child welfare system is having a hard time defending Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.

Democratic state senators are pushing the head of the Department of Children and Family Services to account for more than $100 million in cuts. Under Rauner’s proposal, 18-year-olds would be cut out of state services.

DCFS

Last month, a WBEZ investigation found that the Department of Children and Family Services routinely leaves kids in jail for weeks, even months, after a judge says they should go home.

That’s after a recent Chicago Tribune series found the residential centers the state sends some kids to are unsafe and poorly monitored.

Ben Wolf with the American Civil Liberties Union says the root of both of those problems is a lack of mental health services for kids with special needs.

Could DCFS Child Abuse Deaths Move Rauner's Budget?

Feb 17, 2015
WBEZ

The number of Illinois children dying from abuse and neglect remains high even after the state’s child welfare agency had been involved with the child’s family, according to a new analysis from WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times. It comes as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has vowed to “transform” the state’s long-troubled Department of Children and Family Services.

DCFS Gets New Interim Director

Jan 19, 2015
DCFS

The state agency charged with protecting vulnerable children gets a new interim director today. 

Governor Bruce Rauner is still searching for a permanent director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services. 

Cynthia Tate takes over DCFS today on an interim basis while a search for a permanent director continues. She replaces Bobbie Gregg - who hadn’t even been on the job for a year.

Gregg was the latest in a string of directors for the troubled agency - which has been criticized for neglecting youth in its care. 

Ward Of State Charged With Murder

Sep 24, 2014
willcountyillinois.com

A Joliet woman is scheduled to appear in a Will County courtroom Wednesday for the murder of her roommate.

It is believed to be the first time since 2009 that a ward of the State of Illinois has been arrested for murder.

Sources say Kadiedra Speed was adopted by parents who ended up abusing her.

And she spent time in psychiatric hospitals.

Court records show she got in several fights in her teens.

And lived in four homes in five years. Most recently, in Joliet.

New DCFS Director Outlines Priorities

May 5, 2014
state of Illinois

The new director of Illinois’ child welfare agency wants a better system for tracking children who die from abuse or neglect.

Bobbie Gregg’s listing her priorities as the new director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services.

She talked to WBEZ and to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board about children who died from abuse or neglect - even after DCFS investigated the families.

The two news organizations partnered last year - and found deaths like those were on the rise.

The Department of Children and Family Services is sounding warnings it will cut services that keep kids from having to go into foster care as a consequence of an $85 million budget cut.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he's unhappy with the cuts, and hinted that he'll do something to try to prevent them when he acts on the budget later this month.