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Illinois lawmakers discuss ways to address ongoing issues with state’s child welfare agency | Illinois


(The Center Square) – After several reports into the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services that showed significant issues, lawmakers are working to address the findings. 

A recent Illinois Auditor General report shows that the agency misreported $2.6 million in funds from 2021 and 2022, stating that $1,084,744 from fiscal year 2021 was recorded as being from fiscal 2022. Another $1,592,000 from a private organization’s grant was deposited into the wrong fund. The report also said the department failed to maintain proper segregation of duties over access to the agency’s daycare providers’ licensing information, child care information and billing systems.

In January, a report released by the Illinois Inspector General showed that in 2022, nearly 50 more children died while in the custody of DCFS than in 2021.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked in April how he plans to address the ongoing issues. 

“Addressing the problems that these children face requires a comprehensive solution,” Pritzker said. “It is not just about how we protect that child, but also how do we change the dynamic for their family.”

State Rep. Dave Vella, D-Loves Park, told The Center Square that the agency’s issues need to be addressed from top to bottom. 

“We are going to need a pretty significant overhaul of this agency, if they want to return to their former glory,” Vella said. 

The agency’s director, Mark Smith, was reappointed by Pritzker earlier this year after at least eight contempt of court charges for improper placement of youth in state custody. However, the agency has had a difficult time hiring workers. 

“When you have too few workers and too many children in the system, it causes case workers to not be able to do their job,” Vella said. 

DCFS, in response, has begun putting together hiring events for their agency in an attempt to fill some of the vacancies. 

Some have questioned Pritzker’s handling of the agency. State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, told The Center Square in April during the legislative session that the governor has not made an effort to work with lawmakers.

“I don’t want this to become a political thing. It can’t be a political thing. It’s got to be done through the agency of government, but the fact is he is turning it into a cause of the left, and there are kids dying as a result,” Reick said. 

Lawmakers have worked on legislation to protect families from DCFS as well. Senate Bill 2246, filed by Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, would have provided parents with legal protections when speaking with DCFS about a child abuse investigation, but the measure failed to advance.

DCFS received $1.8 billion in state taxpayer money for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

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Caleb Alexander

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