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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois House lawmakers Friday chided DCFS Director Marc Smith over the continuing shortage of shelter beds and foster homes.

Agency director Marc Smith claimed a prior elimination of hundreds of shelter beds, beginning in 2015, put DCFS in a hole.

Lawmakers first raised questions two and a half years ago following a report from WGN Investigates. The hearing comes after Smith was held in contempt of court earlier this month following WGN Investigates’ latest report on the agency.

WGN found in that 2020, 356 children statewide were hospitalized beyond the time it was medically necessary. 

Due to the lack of shelter beds, the average stay was 55 days longer than a doctor deemed appropriate. Eighteen percent of the kids were 10 or younger.

“There’s a disconnect,” State rep. Steve Reick (R-63rd District) said.

Republicans in the hearing faulted the Pritzker admintration. The adminitration pointed to increased funding for the agency.

But critics continued to point to failures like the death of Damari Perry and AJ Freund — arguing that caseworkers are hamstrung by too many regulations.

Director Marc Smith said the shortages are due to the pandemic.

“DCFS has hired 279 new staff after hiring 496 the previous year” he said.

Smith said what has added to the challenges is a surge of new clients. During the pandemic, he said demand has increased for services.