CHICAGO — A new report has found new faults, and old problems that haven’t been fixed, inside the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
In recent months WGN has reported in-depth on problems within the agency, including children sleeping on the floors of DCFS offices.
This week, the Illinois Auditor General publicly released a review of two years of operations of the child welfare agency.
The report found DCFS is still not always investigating reports of child abuse and neglect quickly enough and that lack of timeliness could further put kids in danger.
The report examined DCFS from 2016 to 2018 and revealed significant deficiencies and noncompliance in some areas. It said case files lacked required documentation and procedures weren’t performed in a timely manner, which could result in inadequate care of children, unauthorized services or misuse of state funds.
And though the numbers have improved in recent years, the report also notes DCFS is not always making timely determinations of whether reports of child abuse and neglect were indicated or unfounded. In fiscal year 2018, just over 200 of more than 80,000 cases did not have a finding within 60 days. The department is also not initiating some investigations within 24 hours of receipt of a report.
“We can’t afford to not be at 100 percent across the board for any of these kids,” said Chief Deputy Cook County Public Guardian Alpa Patel.
Patel said the agency is mired in bureaucratic inefficiency. She points out persistent problems with the child abuse hotline.
The report said that for nearly half of 60 hotline calls tested, there was no documentation to the State Central Register.
“There’s no one tracking if there’s phone calls coming in and subsequent phone calls and that puts children in risk,” said Patel.
Following several heartbreaking deaths of children in DCFS care, the agency has received more funding as lawmakers and the new director promised a top-to-bottom overhaul.
DCFS released a statement that it takes the report’s findings seriously. “The department has taken action to address all concerns raised in the 2016-2018 review. DCFS is fully committed to working constructively with the Auditor General to continue improving the quality of our work.”
Another issue raised in the report is that the department does not have enough bilingual staff, which could lead to inadequate services for some families.