A recent report from the Inspector General found that the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) played a role in 102 children deaths in the past 3 years. 102 deaths that don’t include Tanaja Barnes of Decatur, 2, in 2019. She froze to death in her home as her mother’s boyfriend refused to pay for heat. 102 deaths don’t include AJ Freund of Crystal Lake, 5, who died being beaten at the hands of his drug addicted parents. Those parents had repeated contact with DCFS from Tanaja’s and AJ’s births.
JB promised to expand DCFS role in child upbringing during the campaign. He promised to increase the birth-to-three services of the during the campaign. This includes expanding home visits because it “increased school readiness, reduced child maltreatment and reduced lifetime arrests and convictions.” He also promised to create a mobile and online portal to provide information from the state so the state can reach all new parents. This will require ever increasing budgets for a state agency that consistently fails its mission today.
DCFS staffers face high workloads and, unfortunately for the children, it can result in the death of those in their care. The majority of DCFS workers are not evil, thrive on forcing drama, or incompetent. The ones that are cause dire consequences. The majority of children who come into contact with DCFS will not be taken from their parents. The ones that are face peril not only from our legal system but also those charged with their care. This agency is in drastic need of reform and formal policies that will guide a good working culture.
The agency contractors who were in contact Tanaja and AJ will not face criminal charges for their actions. In these cases, the contractors didn’t attempt to falsify reports. They did falsify reports in the case of Semaj Crosby in 2017. This contract employee, to date, has not been charged with any crime. This is wrong. If a prisoner dies in custody and a police officer falsifies the report, that officer is accountable of any number of offenses at the very least, filing a false report. The DCFS worker who falsifies a report and a child dies, faces being fired but no jail time. Given that current employment law prohibits employers from given information as to why a former employee is released, this seems like a small consequence for doing such an important job so poorly. The contractor will likely not face any financial harm at all for a 17 month old baby that is crushed under the living room couch.
This agency needs reform, not more contact with more parents who will fear their children being taken away. The agency needs to be accountable to those it assumes the care of, not a union that protects those who cannot be trusted to tell the truth. The agency needs a stable director, not a political flunky who is unwilling to make tough choices fighting that union or worse, do their bidding. If the agency is unwilling to do so, it should be dissolved and its charge handed back to law enforcement with full capacity. 102 lives and no agency employees being held to account. One can only imagine the cost for expanding DCFS’ reach into every Illinois family.