Illinois child protection director gets 3rd contempt charge in 8 days

Illinois child protection director gets 3rd contempt charge in 8 days

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services director was held in contempt of court for allegedly violating the right to proper housing of a 17-year-old boy. It’s the director’s third contempt charge in eight days, highlighting DCFS’ struggle to place kids.

A Cook County Juvenile Court judge held the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ top administrator in contempt of court Jan. 13 for failing to find housing for a 17-year-old boy, leaving the teen stuck since Sept. 10 in a psychiatric hospital.

Charles Golbert, Cook County public guardian who represents kids in DCFS custody, said the boy spent Christmas, his birthday and New Year’s in the same hospital where he remained Jan. 13.

Less than a week earlier, the Chicago Sun-Times reported DCFS Director Marc Smith was held in contempt for allegedly failing to place kids in two other cases who’ve since found proper housing.

One case involved a 9-year-old girl who was ready to be discharged from a psychiatric hospital, but it took seven months to find appropriate housing. A 13-year-old boy was forced t sleep in a utility room.

Golbert said he was relieved hear the two earlier cases were resolved but blames the process, calling the use of psychiatric hospitals for housing kids a “huge waste of taxpayer money.” He said the $6.2 million spent at hospitals could instead expand placement capacity.

“It shouldn’t take months and months, multiple hearings, multiple court orders, contempt of court findings against the DCFS director, and sanctions for DCFS to finally do right by its kids,” Golbert said in an email to the Sun-Times.

DCFS could face daily fines of up to $1,000 until Smith complies by placing the 17-year-old in proper housing. The fines are contingent on DCFS’ appeals in the case.

A Republican state lawmaker called for hearings to investigate DCFS and Smith’s role. The agency defended its work to fix decades of problems obtaining the community resources to place children with complex needs.

Smith’s third contempt order was stayed until Jan. 20.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!