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Legislator questions whether new DCFS director brings needed changes

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(The Center Square) – Concern is growing that conditions at the long-troubled Illinois Department of Children Family Services may be getting worse for many of its abused or neglected children.

Earlier this month, Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert, the person who advocates in court for children who’ve been abused or neglected, penned a letter to the court saying many young children under the agency’s care are now far more likely to be held in psychiatric hospitals “beyond medical necessity” compared to just a year ago.

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, shared similar concerns.

“I’m gonna guess a psychiatric ward for analysis is not an appropriate setting beyond a certain period of time,” Wilcox told The Center Square. “We as a society went away from insane asylums where we in theory could adequately address the issues of multiple people in a single setting more efficiently. We went to a community-based structure. Well, community-based structure requires significantly more resources and significantly more effort. Under a community based structure, the resources just aren’t there.”

As part of his letter, Golbert also pointed out that the agency previously eliminated 500 residential beds under former Gov. Bruce Rauner, adding he is hopeful that at some point a plan can be adopted to reincorporate those services while adding much needed new additions.

Even with the agency having recently moved to install a new director, Wilcox said he has to see meaningful change to the system before truly coming to believe it is happening.

“The question is what they’ve been hired to do,” he said. “Have they been given the freedom to rework DCFS into an organization that properly functions on behalf of the constituents, the children, or is it a state agency that is going to be asked to try and do no harm as to not affect the executive officer of the state to not show badly on them.”

In a statement, DCFS officials have stressed many of the issues the agency is now dealing with are being felt across the country as states face “contending with a children’s behavioral health crisis.”

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