Illinois child protection relocates teen girl 25 times
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith was charged for contempt of court four times in six weeks. The latest was a 16-year-old girl relocated 25 times through foster homes, shelters and psychiatric hospitals.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ top administrator is facing a fourth contempt of court charge in two months as the agency continues to struggle to place kids in appropriate housing, this time for a 16-year-old girl relocated up to six times a week.
DCFS director Marc Smith neglected the teen’s right to suitable housing, according to the judge. She’s been under DCFS supervision since Sept. 28 and has been relocated 25 times, including spending two months in a psychiatric hospital despite being medically approved for release. DCFS has been unable to find a suitable home for her.
The agency will face $1,000 daily court-ordered fines until she’s appropriately placed. In an Illinois House hearing on DCFS’ struggles, Smith said the blame rests not with his and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s leadership, but with former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“During the past administration, DCFS lost hundreds of residential beds and thousands of foster homes and rebuilding that network is a much lengthier process than destroying it,” Smith said.
Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert represents kids in DCFS custody. He said the agency had plenty of time to place the girl, but still came up short.
“They knew about this hearing and even with the hammer of a contempt of court citation over their heads, they were unable to find an appropriate placement for this child,” he said. “I don’t think you will ever find this situation happening anywhere across the country.”
Illinois’ budget priorities separate it from any other state. Spending on social services, such as DCFS, has been crowded out by pension spending. No state dedicates more of its budget to public pensions than Illinois, at more than 25%.
Since 2000, state pension spending has grown by 584%. Spending on a range of core services, such as DCFS funding for vulnerable kids, has been cut by 20%.
Solving the pension crisis would save the state billions that could be used for the services Illinoisans expect for their taxes, such as protecting the 21,000 children under DCFS’ care. The Illinois Policy Institute has the solution embodied in a hold-harmless pension plan that guarantees existing state retiree benefits will be there when needed through small adjustments to the growth rate of future benefits.
Amending the Illinois Constitution to allow for those changes is key to getting DCFS to invest in its child protection services – and end the contempt citations.