DCFS workers: Cuts could harm kids

2012-10-07T07:00:00Z DCFS workers: Cuts could harm kidsBY BECKY MALKOVICH, THE SOUTHERN The Southern
October 07, 2012 7:00 am  • 

At-risk children could end up paying a steep price for changes at the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, the agency’s local frontline workers fear.

A reorganization of the agency, combined with expected employee layoffs, could result in more children in harm’s way or entering the foster care system; fewer staff members handling larger caseloads; and higher costs to taxpayers, workers said.

The reorganization gutted the agency’s Intact Family Services, the program that provides at-risk children and their families with services specifically designed to prevent abuse and neglect and entry into the foster care system.

“The IFS program allowed the children to remain in the home of their parents while allowing the department to refer the family for interventions that would target the problem and work to alleviate the risk to the children,” local DCFS worker Tim Rice said.

The reorganization shifted such services to private agencies and tightened the eligibility criteria for services. To qualify under the new system, private agencies can provide services only in the instance of an indicated finding, or substantiated allegation of abuse or neglect, and the meeting of at least one of five special circumstances such as a child younger than the age of six in the home.

“Tighter criteria were designed to focus on those at greatest risk,” DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.

The private agencies are also encouraged financially to limit services to five to seven months, whereas DCFS services were provided for six to 18 months on average.

“The rationale for that, broadly stated, is that many times the good we’re able to do is done toward the beginning of a case,” Marlowe said.

Local DCFS workers believe the redesigned intact services will result in increased abuse and neglect and more children placed in foster care, a far more traumatic and expensive option.

“The decision to eliminate the IFS program within DCFS is wrong,” Rice said. “It is dangerous, and more children will be at risk of harm or they will be at risk of removal from their families.”

The agency’s reorganization and planned layoffs came after drastic budget cuts earlier this year, Marlowe said. The governor’s introduced budget cut DCFS by $36 million, a loss the agency expected to handle by cutting contracts rather than personnel.

The General Assembly, however, added another $50 million to the budget-slashing for a total of an $86 million cut to the DCFS budget. Of that additional $50 million, $27 million was taken directly from personnel.

“This was action taken by the General Assembly. In effect, we were mandated to spend $27 million less on personnel,” Marlowe said.

Letters were sent to 568 people telling them their positions would be eliminated; 285 of those were offered jobs that would “properly staff the frontlines,” leaving a net loss of 283 jobs because of the reorganization and layoffs to come, he said.

Help for the frontlines, where investigators are carrying more cases than allowed by federal consent decree, has yet to come.

Local investigators are opening an average of 15 new abuse/neglect investigations each month, local child protection supervisor Stephanie Grigsby said.

In Franklin and Williamson counties, more than 100 reports of abuse or neglect come in each month. Those reports are investigated by seven investigators in an office that when fully staffed has almost double that number.

“Laying off DCFS workers at a time when the agency is not fully staffed puts more children at risk,” Rice said. “DCFS workers, both investigators and foster care caseworkers, have caseloads that are difficult to manage because the number of cases per worker is too high.”

Still, DCFS staffers are preparing to say goodbye to even more co-workers once the planned layoffs take effect.

Ginger Smith, a child protection specialist at the Murphysboro office, is one of those who are slated for layoff.

“I was supposed to be laid off Oct. 1; now the date is undetermined,” she said. “This is an emotional, stressful job anyway, even more so now because of the uncertainty.”

Layoffs are still expected to happen “at some point,” Marlowe said.



On Twitter: @beckymalkovich

Copyright 2015 The Southern. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(25) Comments

  1. Vicki Lambou
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    Vicki Lambou - October 08, 2012 9:58 am
    Thank you for your comment DeeJay!
  2. Vicki Lambou
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    Vicki Lambou - October 08, 2012 9:39 am
    The REAL danger to children and families is the TITLE IV funding! If we do not cut this budget severely of this MULTI TRILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY then the human trafficking of our children the horrific child abuse and neglect at the hands of the ALL POWERFUL NANNY STATE will get even worse! This is a holocaust on children and families!!! Don't take my word for it do the research yourself!

  3. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - October 07, 2012 7:27 pm
    Boone I'm not grumpy or cranky. I just think MMike is starting to feel like Obama during the Romney/Obama debate. Wishing there was a trap door in the floor so he could make a quick exit. Now that was funny lol.
  4. Governor Number 40892-424
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    Governor Number 40892-424 - October 07, 2012 7:17 pm
    What!? DFS workers are suggesting that “cuts could harm kids”? Get outta here! All our lives we kept hearing from the Democrat machine that they were the compassionate ones and only they cared about kids. Heck, we Illinoisans have paid taxes up the wazoo… so what’s with all this crazy talk about not providing for the neediest? Oh wait…wasn’t it the Democrat machine--that’s been in charge for decades--that also robbed the retirement nest eggs of state workers? So what’s going on here? A suspicious person might think that our state is operated as if Al Capone were in charge and that the voters that keep sending misfits to Springfield are either a collection of masochists and/or grammar school dropouts.
  5. boone76
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    boone76 - October 07, 2012 6:41 pm
    MMike.... to be fair, I haven't found Old Joe grumpy at all.........Cranky is probably more appropriate. :-)

    He needs to learn the fine art of watching football with one eye and napping with the other. That's what Sunday afternoons are all about.
  6. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - October 07, 2012 5:52 pm
    Ha Ha MMike you have played that Frank Zappa card before.
  7. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - October 07, 2012 5:37 pm
    Grumpy? I don't think I have been grumpy. I do know a little about DCFS. I have a couple of cousins that are DCFS investigator's. And I don't think DCFS investigators that didn't raise their own kids, (grandma&grandpa did) shouldn't be going into peoples homes and telling them how to raise their kids
  8. DeeJay
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    DeeJay - October 07, 2012 4:23 pm
    Whaddaya know? Mmike and I agree. And, vknoll, it sounds like we have traveled similar paths. As mainmain is fond of saying, God help our kids. There are many bright eyes among those poor kids, and among those kids who had kids who are are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting and need a patient, skilled counselor (caseworker-how I hated that title) to teach them. They certainly didn't need another pencil-pushing bureaucrat in Springfield whose decision-making process involved good (for their career) politics and the children be damned.

    Yes Mmike, same types of problems in education. God bless the poor classroom teacher, especially those who serve in big-city educational systems.
  9. MMike
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    MMike - October 07, 2012 4:22 pm
    I think I know why Joe is in such a grumpy mood today.

  10. Fvhtwhjrth
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    Fvhtwhjrth - October 07, 2012 2:29 pm
  11. MMike
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    MMike - October 07, 2012 2:23 pm
    Joe: I supported closing Tamms and the M'boro youth detention center. I supported eliminating the Lt Gov position. Don't over generalize. That's not what independent thinkers do.
  12. MMike
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    MMike - October 07, 2012 2:20 pm
    DeeJay and vknoll make valid points. I see the same in higher ed. Trouble is if we make cuts the people who are in charge now will likely make the cuts in ways the harm children. I hope people like vknoll are able to prevail and give the upper bureaucracy a hair cut. I am not optimistic. vknoll may be right that the money we save today will cost us more tomorrow. But if we don't have the money today ...

    An example in higher ed happened last year: MAP grant money ran out. No attempt was made to prioritize helping high performing students and cut off the slackers. The money simply ran out.

  13. DeeJay
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    DeeJay - October 07, 2012 1:18 pm
    I worked for DCFS back in the late seventies and early eighties. It was the same then as it is now, a bloated bureaucracy. A lot of my fellow caseworkers were like me, fresh out of school, young and idealistic, with a deep sense of caring for troubled children and parents. It didn't take long for the bureaucracy to beat the idealism out of us. When President Reagan began trying to get government spending under control, it was the same song and dance played by the higher up's, with careful instructions passed down to the underlings on how to sing the tune-"The Children Will Suffer." And, if you knew what was good for you, you sang the song as instructed.
  14. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - October 07, 2012 12:49 pm
    MMike said. Why not be honest and admit that cuts are necessary.

    The problem with government it is a bottomless money pit of waste.

    Just like in the coal mine, government payed for some of our safety supplies.

    when we moved a production unit, the government payed for some of our safety supplies, that was always left behind. Management said it cost to much to retrieve them. But the supplies the company payed for. Now that is a different story.

    I talked to a 30 year Shawnee Forest ranger. he said the same thing. Waste is unbelievable in his line of work. It's easy to spend someone else's money.
  15. vknoll
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    vknoll - October 07, 2012 12:02 pm
    I totally agree cuts are needed, I also feel we should protect children and prison guards/staff. Do we really need a Turkish Task Force? Check out the nonsense tax dollars are spent on, show me where all the money goes, every bit of it, so I can make informed budgetary statements. Unfortunately, the accountability porthole has everything covered in shrouds so I cannot decipher it. Do we need 12 Christmas trees decorated at a mansion that is maintained for no reason? (Governor's photo gallery, he is proud of this, when kids go without at Christmas in this country of "wealth"...) So much graft and no one held responsible. http://accountability.illinois.gov/Expenditures/Default.aspx
  16. boone76
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    boone76 - October 07, 2012 11:57 am
    I'm not sure i can agree with you here my friend. MMike has stated a point of reality. I am just answering him in kind. Sometimes both sides have to eat a t-rd sandwich........you just have to put some French's mustard on it and learn to like it. This country has GOT to start getting some stuff done.

    Compromise is not the same as surrender.
  17. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - October 07, 2012 11:22 am
    Boone, MMike is a state union employee. He will defend any state agency no matter how worthless they are. He is part of the state system.

    Liberals can find justification in any government program. Just like the 30 or so government agencies studying the fruit Fly.

    Conservatives are independent thinkers. That is why we like smaller government.
  18. vknoll
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    vknoll - October 07, 2012 11:06 am
    The fact is that cutting intact services will cost constituents much more tax dollars. There is no longer a safety net to assure children at risk of moderate to severe risk of harm (not a spanking that does not leave cuts, welts or buises, that is another misinformed misconception). Children will therefore be brought into care if a judge (not DCFS or a state's attorney who does not want to deal with child abuse issues) deems the home unsafe. Foster care costs range from approximately 1,000 dollars per month (then add costs of services) to nine or ten thousand dollars per month for a residential facility. Multiply a intact caseload averaging 30 children verses what the worker makes, Children remain in the home with strict monitoring by well trained, experienced child welfare professionals with services provided to motivate parents to improve the situation and assure child safety and well being.
    The intention of the budget cuts was to cut the top management positions which are unnecessary. The top management added deputy directors at double or triple pay justifying this by stating that the directors do the work of more than one person, which has not been demonstrated. Front line workers are hammered with caseloads that are over the federal mandates and most certainly are doing the work of more than one person. The frontline cuts are being justified as these workers are being moved to positions that will meet the mandates and the director in his own words "won't get sued for cutting intact services, it is not a mandate." No staff member wants their coworkers to be laid off, but the main objection of staff is that this leaves thousands of children at risk of MODERTE TO SEVERE RISK OF HARM. Ninety four percent of children who die of neglect, not abuse. Intact services are intentioned to strengthen families and monitor safety and well being while improving the living situations which keep children in the home and if money is all you care about, then realize what will cost taxpayers with this cut.
    The point is, certainly cut the DCFS budget, but not the front line workers that you as taxpayers have paid to train and invested in to assure CHILDREN AT RISK OF MODERATE TO SEVERE HARM are protected.
  19. boone76
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    boone76 - October 07, 2012 10:45 am
    Holy crap......MMike

    I'm willing to give in to letting the Bush tax cuts expire (as they were supposed to). There is an uncomfortable but necessary middle ground to be reached out there. Why are we the only ones willing to recognize it?
  20. Gillsburgher
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    Gillsburgher - October 07, 2012 10:34 am
    Whenever some group wants more money, the best thing to do is to cry, "The children!" and somehow even the most tenuous relationship is supposed to trump all other interests.

    There is actually something that you, MMike can do if you believe this is an area that should not be cut. Pay for it personally. Make out a check to whatever you think the budget should not be cut by and send it to the state (make sure they know it is coming and what to do with it, it may take legislative cooperation, but it can be done). Problem solved. Everyone should be happy.
  21. MMike
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    MMike - October 07, 2012 10:24 am
    Why not be honest and admit that cuts are necessary and children will suffer because of them. That, in my view, is the hard truth. Same is true for closing prisons, cutbacks in education and cutting in Medicaid eligibility. People will suffer because we failed to elect competent leadership for many decades. On this even Gov.../Bessie/Tsk-Tsk and I agree.
  22. Not2serious
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    Not2serious - October 07, 2012 9:38 am
    Same old story when needed cuts are to be made....,DCFS_children will suffer,DOC-public won't be safe...., Why don't they just say what they mean? We don't want to lose our jobs and the unions don't want to lose our dues.
  23. Jack Abbott
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    Jack Abbott - October 07, 2012 9:31 am
    Cuts have to be made. All agencies have this silly belief , they are some how indispensable to the taxpayer. DOC with severe streamlining perhaps is best argument. DCFS, DHS and the like are huge and I mean huge overblown wastes riddled with redundant , phantom upper management ! I say sharpen those knives !
  24. OLD JOE
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    OLD JOE - October 07, 2012 9:14 am
    I personally have talked to state attorneys, and have been told by them DCFS is a worthless agency. The only reason they deal with DCFS is because the law says they have to.

    Personally I feel parents and schools should have the right to spank a child without fear. The way our liberal system is set up today, there is more parent abuse by children than child abuse. I have heard a couple of parents say my child is out of control, and there is nothing I can do about it. My child knows all he/she has to do is make a complaint to the school teacher and I'm in trouble.
  25. dongeorg123
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    dongeorg123 - October 07, 2012 8:46 am
    Thank you for this article. The cuts to a budget should not put children at risk, period. I am attatching a Human Services Committee hearing held in Chicago this week that sheds a lot of light on the aim of the governor to privatise to save a buck and the impact this will have on children in Illinois. It is lengthy but so informative with regard to what DCFS staff has been subjected to and the disregard by him and his inept director to child safety. Note the director does not even have a clue as to the mission of the department he directs.
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