CHICAGO — The Department of Children and Family Services has released information on the number of children they think may have been forced to sleep in their offices overnight.
DCFS admitted they don’t have a system in place to track how many children have had to sleep on office floors while they’re being processed. Documents obtained by WGN Investigates seem to indicate the priority at DCFS is paperwork, rather than placement.
WGN Investigates obtained information for May and June 2019 on the number of kids sleeping at DCFS offices and it’s more than just a few cases.
The pictures obtained by WGN Investigates have rattled the department, as they scramble to come up with a solution to what now appears to be an even bigger problem. The images came to light in July of children sleeping on the floor, sometimes on just a blanket. Some were on a mattress on the floor. The pictures were taken last year at the DCFS South Loop building.
Freedom of Information Act requests by Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert have come back. The DCFS letter states that from May 6 of this year to June 28, “approximately 16 youth in the protective custody, temporary custody, or guardianship of DCFS spent time overnight in a DCFS office, arriving before 12:30 a.m. and staying until 6 a.m. or later.”
In July, the public guardian spoke with WGN’s Ben Bradley about the issue as he tried to make sense of how often it was happening.
Two hundred and forty-two pages of emails and documents from DCFS also revealed a thread where a DCFS chief wrote in mid-June of this year, “We have a deeply broken process that I am learning leaves children across the state sleeping unnecessarily in offices even when beds are available for the night.” It goes on to say, “We need to prioritize. This as a must fix.”
The cases have reached the state’s top leader with Gov. J.B. Pritzker infusing nearly $90 million into the agency and placing the blame on previous administrations.