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Judge Won't Back Down In Effort To Get Kids In Care Of DCFS Out Of Limbo In Psych Wards, Temporary Shelters

CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of children who can’t go home to their families have instead been left in psych wards for months.

They are all in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and your tax dollars are footing the bill.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov has been watching a significant court case unfold with regard to this issue. The judge on the case isn’t backing down in fighting to get the kids out of the psych wards and placed in residential facilities or foster care.

The judge said the kids being left in limbo like they are isn’t care – it’s torture.

But the DCFS continues to push back, and all of this is costing taxpayers millions more than it should.

“Get your act together” – that is the gist of what Cook County Juvenile Court Judge Patrick Murphy – who previously served as Cook County Public Guardian – continues to demand of the DCFS. The judge is fed up with hundreds of children languishing in mental hospitals and temporary shelters simply because DCFS has nowhere to place them.

“It’s a disgrace,” said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.

Golbert is closely watching the court battle, which began when Judge Murphy took the unprecedented step of ordering DCFS to find replacements for eight children as soon as possible – or else. It includes one teen who has now been in a psych ward for 103 days, and another who has been in a temporary shelter for 193 days.

“It actually given me more anxiety when I’m like out in public – and you’re supposed to be there for treatment,” one teenager told Kozlov last year as he described his ordeal after being in a psych ward 67 days longer than medically necessary.

Judge Murphy called it torture, and a violation of the Constitution. He even hauled DCFS Director Marc Smith into court Monday, demanding action, after the department fought and defied his order.

“By the way, he came into court with seven lawyers – an army of seven lawyers,” Golbert said.

It sparked movement. In court, DCFS announced one of the eight children will get a new home this week. But the deadline is looming, along with the threat of more court action.

“I won’t speculate about the judge,” Golbert said. “I know us, we’re ready to move on a rule to show cause and contempt findings.”

Besides the emotional toll, there is also a taxpayer hit. Golbert said it is far more expensive to keep kids in hospitals and in shelters – so far this year, he estimates it has cost taxpayers an additional $6.2 million.000

This all comes down to a shortage of group home beds, and foster homes? Almost 500 beds in residential facilities were eliminated over the last six years.

The judge is also ordering DCFS to come up with specific plan to get the beds back.