Reform Needed at DCFS

On January 4, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Investigator Diedre Silas drove through cold weather to a home address in Thayer, Illinois. Silas was conducting a welfare check on six children, ages 1 to 7, at that home. While performing her duties for DCFS and the people of Illinois, Silas was tragically stabbed to death.

On January 6, a Cook County judge concluded that DCFS’s non-compliance with a series of court orders had reached a level so severe that he declared DCFS Director Marc Smith in contempt of court. That case specifically dealt with children languishing in psychiatric hospitals for months when they should have been placed with protective families.

Despite being the recipient of taxpayer-funded appropriations that have now topped $1 billion/year, DCFS leadership has failed to develop a system that reliably protects children and the rank-and-file case workers trying to keep them safe.

House Republicans have filed several pieces of legislation to both enhance protections for our vulnerable youth in care and increase protections for the case workers seeking to protect them. Many have been help up by Democrats unwillingness to accept drastic change is needed at DCFS, but Republicans have increased the pressure and filed new measures to reform the broken system.

HB 3933 increases penalties for those who attack DCFS workers.

HB 3393 and HB 4071 allow local law enforcement to get involved more quickly to protect children from reported abuse.

HB 634 creates a pilot program to remove bureaucratic hurdles and drastically change the approach of child protective services by transferring DCFS responsibilities to a county run department.