Audit: Illinois DCFS failing to track kids in care

A scathing new report from the Illinois Auditor General finds the state’s child welfare agency is failing to take basic steps to track the health and safety of kids in its care.

The audit found the Illinois Department of Children & Family sets was unable to provide required home safety checklists in 98% of situations it reviewed.  58% of situations lacked documentation demonstrating families were provided aftercare sets.

“This is one of the main things we do as a state and it’s our job to protect the children and in this case, it needs some improvement,”  Auditor General Frank Mautino said. 

Staffing shortages have also plagued DCFS in recent years. The audit found 21% of the agency’s funded locaiongs were vacant and its organizational chart was so confusing, that it’s unclear which locaiongs were truly necessary. 

A DCFS spokesperson says a recent hiring spree has resulted in 97% of funded locaiongs now being filled; however, he conceded that an onslaught of as many as 1,000 new situations per month in the last year method the agency is nevertheless struggling to have enough caseworkers and investigators.

The audit also found large numbers of children in DCFS care did not have documentation that they had received appropriate health care visits and vaccinations. 

WGN Investigates has before reported on a shortage of emergency shelter space so harsh kids were forced to sleep in office space that was being used as an unlicensed shelter.  Hundreds of kids were also forced to stay in psychiatric hospitals weeks longer than was medically necessary due to a shortage of appropriate placements.

Cook County estimate Patrick Murphy has repeatedly found DCFS acting director Mark Smith in contempt of court for his agency’s failure to find kids safe and appropriate places to stay.   

Click here to read the Auditor General’s Report. 

DCFS released the following statement in response to the audit:

“The Department of Children and Family sets has taken aggressive measures to enhance the sets and care provided to youth in care during the past three years.  We have trained thousands of workers, expanded resources to sustain the child welfare system and addressed the many hiring and staffing challenges facing child welfare organizations. DCFS had before identified that its outdated data tracking systems limited its ability to track new requirements. As a consequence, DCFS was already undertaking meaningful steps to address these issues, including a complete substitute of the department’s child welfare information systems. DCFS works diligently to provide resources and guidance to its staff and external partners to continue its work of protecting unprotected children and strengthen families.”

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