CHICAGO — A surprise inspection of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services office, where some children reportedly slept on the floor, revealed no evidence of beds, pillows or other items kids might need if they slept there.
In June, WGN Investigates was first to report on a letter filed in federal court by the Cook County Public Guardian claiming two teenagers had been forced to sleep on the floor of the DCFS office at 1911 S. Indiana Ave. in Chicago.
“Our worst fears have been realized,” public guardian Charles Golbert wrote to a judge overseeing a consent decree with DCFS. “DCFS has to resort to forcing children to sleep on the hard cold floors of its offices because it doesn’t even have an adequate number of shelter beds.”
The public guardian said one of the teens ran away the next morning.
Investigators from the DCFS Inspector General’s office visited the facility on June 27, three days after the WGN News report aired. They found an eighth floor conference room had been outfitted with couches, a video gaming console and other comforts for children. However, Inspector General Meryl Paniak said her team did not find beds, pillows or other items to suggest the area had been outfitted for sleeping.
Paniak said her office is engaged in a more thorough evaluation of the entire system of care offered to needy and endangered children including whether there is a shortage of emergency shelter beds.
A spokesperson for DCFS said the agency receives kids at any hour of the day, seven days a week and strives to provide a welcoming environment.
“How often those babies, children and youth fall asleep is impossible to report,” DCFS spokesperson Jassen Strokosch said.
WGN is focusing on the care children receive from this state agency in the wake of the deaths of three Chicago-area kids in recent years. Watch our full series the week of July 8 on WGN News at Nine.