February 8, 2021 by Zack Teague, Chair, National Parents Organization of Illinois
As a former Department of Children and Family Services foster care caseworker, working with a private contracting agency for the department beginning in 2016, I have seen many Illinoisans from many walks of life, encountering the department at the investigation stage. More often than not, the interventions executed by the DCFS and its contracts further destabilize Illinois families.
For example, when a parent encounters police involvement that results in a mandated report to the child abuse and neglect hotline, it takes 48 hours or more, but no less for an investigator to arrive at the home to follow up with the mandated report. Police involvement resulting in a mandated report can vary from an occurrence of domestic disturbance resulting in an arrest of a parent, the identification and the use of illegal substances in the home, a violation of probation or parole including a failed or missed drug screen. Very rarely is a mandated report made on the presumption or evidence of actual abuse or neglect of a child, by a first-hand witness.
The DCFS divides the state into regions. The Central Region of Illinois is made of 49 Counties. According to published statistics provided by the DCFS, during Fiscal Year 2020, from October 1st, 2019 through September 30th, 2020, 22,776 reports of alleged abuse and neglect originated from the 49 counties of the Central Region. Of those reports of alleged abuse and neglect, only 6,631 resulted in the report being described by the results of an investigation as “founded”. When a report of abuse or neglect is determined to be “founded”, the alleged perpetrators, presumably the parents or family members of the allegedly abused or neglected children, are recommended to receive corrective services by the department, contract agencies, and sometimes but not always, the circuit court in a given county with jurisdiction over the matter.
What can we conclude from the 15,380 reports that are determined by the results of an investigation to be “unfounded”?
1. Are people too quick to make reports of abuse and neglect?
2. Are Investigators, and the investigatory process inconsistent across the 49 counties to such a
degree that 15,380 reports were incorrectly identified as unfounded?
3. Or is abuse and neglect actually not as widespread as the number of reports would suggest it is?
In my humble opinion, all are true presumptions based on the evidence. In my experience, the investigatory process is manipulative, coercive, and destabilizing to a degree that DCFS and its contracts become a necessity. On July, 10th, 2015 the General Assembly passed Public Act 099-0023, which essentially requested that the Children’s Justice Task Force conduct a study and produce recommendations. The report titled: THE URGENT NEED IN ILLINOIS FOR UNIT-BASED MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAMS TO INVESTIGATE CHILD ABUSE can be found here. Almost 5 years after the issuance of the report the question remains, “has the Illinois Child Welfare System improved?” From my perspective, as a previous foster care caseworker and as someone who has had DCFS involvement I would resoundingly say NO. I have contacted the authors of the report and will follow up with their responses to get an understanding of how the recommendations have been implemented.