PETERSBURG, IL – In news the Pritzker administration hopes was buried over the holiday weekend, an investigation by the Better Government Association highlighted critical and ongoing problems with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
“In any other state in the country, this bureaucratic ineptitude would be a massive scandal – and Illinoisans deserve better,” said Jesse Sullivan, the conservative outsider candidate for governor. “It’s time for Director Smith to resign and for Gov. Pritzker to show Illinois families a plan to protect our most vulnerable children.”
From the BGA Report:
- Marc Smith presides over an agency inundated by crises — rising abuse and neglect complaints, growing vacancy rates among investigators and a litany of children who died in the agency’s care.
- The examination found a steady increase in the number of Illinois foster children held for weeks or months after a judge ordered their release from detention centers. In other cases, children as young as two years old were held in offices or shelters and others as young as seven were kept in psychiatric hospitals long after doctors cleared them for release.
- Juvenile court records reviewed by the BGA detail the abuse and abandonment many Illinois children faced before DCFS took protective custody — and in some cases mistreatment that continued even after the agency intervened.
- DCFS workers reported a rising fear for their personal safety, but the General Assembly sent only one measure related to employee safety to the governor, a bill that would allow workers to carry pepper spray.
- One of [DCFS Director] Smith’s first acts upon taking the helm of DCFS three years ago was to work from a new executive office in an agency field facility in a Joliet shopping mall near his suburban home.
Earlier this month, DCFS was the subject of a scathing audit that “found failures to conduct required home safety checks before children are returned to their parents; to provide follow-up services for the required six months after a child leaves the agency’s care; and to make sure children in DCFS care are receiving appropriate medical checkups and immunizations.” (Chicago Tribune)
Earlier this year, Pritzker’s agency was called out by the Cook County Public Guardian, who said “DCFS is in the worst shape it’s been in 30 years… Enough is enough. Drastic times call for drastic measures.” (Chicago Tribune)
DCFS Director Marc Smith is currently facing 11 contempt of court orders, stemming from allegations of physical abuse and failure to properly place children in DCFS care. (CBS News)
Sullivan and his wife Monique have firsthand experience with DCFS, serving as foster parents for two teenage daughters.
“The experience of being a foster parent in Illinois has given me a personal call to action to fix this broken system, strengthen families, and make a real change in Springfield,” Sullivan said. “Illinois deserves better – and we will demand better on Election Day.”