CHICAGO (CBS) — We must act with a sense of urgency – that is what the inspector general for the Department of Children and Family Services said about improving the embattled agency.
This came after the IG confirmed that another five dozen children with a DCFS history have died in just the past six months.
CBS 2 Investigator Dana Kozlov obtained a memo outlining some new changes.
It was April of last year when Gov. J.B. Pritzker toured a new DCFS facility and promised to improve the much-maligned agency.
“This is all part of an effort by DCFS and by my administration to upgrade the training; and make sure we’re bringing the best case workers, the best-trained case workers and investigators, to the forefront to operate going forward,” Pritzker said on April 15, 2019.
Some of his changes were implemented before the latest DCFS Inspector General report found that 123 children – prior to DCFS interventions – died between July 2018 and June 2019.
Yet changes may not be happening fast enough. The inspector general confirms 56 more children with a DCFS history have died just in the last six months.
Two others suffered serious injuries.
“Enough is enough is enough, and the current administration has to own all the problems, and the current administration has to own the issues and injuries that are happening,” said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.
A Pritzker representative said it will take time for agency improvements to take hold. CBS 2 has obtained an internal DCFS memo outlining new screening procedures for kids who might be in danger.
One of those kids was AJ Freund, whose mother, JoAnn Cunningham, confessed to murdering him. AJ’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., is still facing charges. AJ was killed after caseworkers kept him with his parents despite repeated visits and warning signs.
Caseworkers must now review any previous family and case history, including prior unfounded reports.
After a second abuse or neglect report and if services are refused, caseworkers must now notify the State’s Attorney within 48 hours for potential court-ordered intervention.
Three calls of abuse or more and caseworkers must forward information to the State’s Attorney for juvenile court intervention within two days.
Some critics argue this may cause more children to be placed in a flawed foster care system.
“I think and I hope that this will make a difference,” Golbert said. “But it has to be coupled with adequate staffing.”
Gov. Pritzker hired 300 more DCFS workers, but Golbert does not think it will be enough.
In another change, caseworkers must immediately consider taking a child into protective custody if a parent previously had parental terminated, and the decision must be documented.