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  • Sen. Robert PetersSPRINGFIELD – Entering an apprenticeship program often requires expensive fees, tuition and tools, but eligible youth could have those associated costs covered thanks to a bill sponsored by State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) that became law today.

    “It’s too often a person who otherwise wants to start an apprenticeship and take the first steps toward self-sustainability is unable to because they can’t afford the upfront cost of starting an apprenticeship,” Peters said. “This could result in them having no choice but to find a job in a field with lower wages or fewer benefits. Youth in care often lead difficult lives, and we should strive to make it easier for the kids aging out of the system by tearing down the systemic barriers that hold them back.”

  • morrison 032719SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, released the following statement this afternoon after news that Gov. Pritzker has nominated Marc D. Smith to lead the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS):

    “Today’s announcement by the governor begins what I hope will be a new chapter for an agency that has been marked by instability for years. DCFS has failed to live up to its primary role, which is first and foremost the safety of children. Audit findings and high-profile deaths of toddlers who had been visited by DCFS staff only highlight the systemic dysfunction at this agency.

  • manar 031219SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ primary child welfare agency is failing families in rural and downstate Illinois, State Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday.

    “There is a void in services in parts of the state where child abuse is through the roof,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who chairs one of the Senate’s two budget committees. “I believe DCFS is completely ill-equipped to handle what’s happening in the rural parts of Illinois.”

    Manar’s district includes rural communities where residents sometimes step in to help children in crisis because DCFS is unresponsive or services are unavailable, and large communities like Decatur, where in February 2-year-old Ta’Naja Barnes died from starvation, freezing and neglect by her mother and mother's boyfriend.

    During a budget hearing Tuesday, Manar decried the absence of children’s advocacy centers and other resources in every county of Illinois, even as there has been an increase in hotline calls and abuse investigations by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

    According to DCFS data, 39 accredited children’s advocacy centers serve 95 of Illinois’ 102 counties. For example, one center in Macoupin County serves families in Macoupin, Montgomery, Greene, Jersey and Calhoun counties.

    Manar asked DCFS officials for more detailed information about the number and location of calls to the DCFS child abuse hotline, locations where abuse investigators work and more. He criticized DCFS for failing to make a sufficient budget request for the upcoming fiscal year that would allow it to properly serve the children and families of Illinois.

    “I think we can all agree there’s a crisis on our hands when it comes to many aspects of what DCFS is charged with doing. We recite the names of dead children in this hearing once a year,” Manar said. “I want to know how much it’s going to take the department to do the job that it’s tasked with doing. If it’s a big number, it’s a big number.”

  • fine 022019SPRINGFIELD – Responding to a situation that puts parents in the impossible position of choosing between maintaining custody of their child or providing their child mental health care, State Senator Laura Fine (D – Glenview) put forth legislation addressing eligibility for various Department of Child and Family Services programs.

    “Many parents must face a heart-wrenching choice between providing their child the care they need and retaining custody of their child,” Fine said. “This bill eliminates that awful dilemma and allows parents more flexibility in caring for their child.”

    Senate Bill 191 concerns eligibility for the Family Support Program services or an Individual Care Grant. Under current law, parents may be forced to lose custody of their children in order to provide them the mental health care they require. Because of this, many parents opt not to provide that care, leaving youths untreated and increasing their risk of delinquency.

    The measure, which passed a Senate committee today, retains a child’s eligibility for an Individual Care Grant, which provides funding to parents of children with mental illnesses, even if they are placed under DCFS guardianship.

    The bill is an initiative of the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian. It passed the Senate committee on Human Services and will proceed to the full Senate for consideration.

  • morrison 081518SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) convened the Senate Human Services Committee Tuesday afternoon to seek solutions to the continuing problem of Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) youth being held longer than medically necessary in psychiatric hospitals across the state.

    “Abused or neglected children with mental health conditions should receive the care they need and transition to an outpatient or residential setting as soon as possible,” Morrison said. “Languishing in a psychiatric hospital can cause affirmative harm for a child. The state must do a much better job caring for these vulnerable children.”

  • morrison 022118SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) expressed bewilderment today at news that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has not published child abuse and neglect numbers in Illinois since July.

    “It is completely mindboggling that DCFS would arbitrarily stop reporting data on child abuse in Illinois,” Morrison said. “I am publicly calling on DCFS to immediately begin releasing this data without delay.”

  • Sen. Pat McGuireSPRINGFIELD — Following a community forum between Department of Children & Family Services Acting Director Beverly Walker, community members and Will County groups on the state agency's response to the death of Semaj Crosby, State Sen. Pat McGuire issued the following statement.

    “I salute SAFE (Safety Alliance for Families Everywhere) and the Will County Progressives for conducting today's forum, Pastor Herbert Brooks Jr. and St. John Missionary Baptist Church for hosting the event, the community members who participated, and DCFS Acting Director Beverly Walker for being accountable throughout the two-hour discussion.

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  • morrison 062717SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D – Deerfield) met with new Acting Director of the Department of Children and Family Services Beverly Walker this afternoon during a hearing of the Senate Human Services Committee.

    “Today’s hearing gave members of the Senate the opportunity to learn about Director Walker’s background and her ideas for bringing lasting change to DCFS,” Morrison said. “As seen by today’s high level of interest from Senators on both sides of the aisle, the Senate is committed to working with Acting Director Walker to address the monumental challenges facing this troubled agency.”

  • mcguire 030717 1714SPRINGFIELD — In the wake of the tragic death of a 16-month-old girl 33 hours after a state inspection found no reason to remove her from her home, State Senator Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, asked the director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services what is being done to investigate the death.

    Semaj Crosby was found dead April 25 under a couch in a home in unincorporated Joliet Township. She had been reported missing just hours after the state inspector’s visit, triggering a search by scores of first responders and volunteers.

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  • cunningham dcfs wardsSPRINGFIELD - Wards of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who run away or go missing from the system will now have additional protections to help find them and keep them out of the hands of predators. Two pieces of legislation, sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham, were signed into law to help create a system to locate missing wards that are reported as well as enhancing penalties for criminals who exploit those missing wards.

    “The protection of our children, regardless of circumstance, is a priority. With the passage and signing of these important pieces of legislation, our most vulnerable children will have better protection and, hopefully, a better life,” said Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat.

    Senate Bill 1775, also known as the Safeguard our Children Act, spells out what is required from DCFS once a youth in their custody is reported missing. The legislation states that DCFS must report the missing youth to local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Illinois State Police must also develop a network to help with locating missing DCFS wards.

    From 2011 to 2013, residential DCFS facilities reported 29,425 incidents of missing wards, averaging 27 runaway reports per day. Many residential facilities do not report the runaways to local law enforcement.

    “There have been numerous cases of DCFS wards going missing, where, unfortunately, law enforcement was not made aware of the missing child,” Cunningham said. “This new law will help us to find runaway wards as quickly as possible, helping protect them from possible exploitation.”

    Also signed into law was Senate Bill 201, which allows sentencing courts to consider a defendant’s knowledge of a prostitution victim’s DCFS status when sentencing. Many wards of the state are extremely susceptible and are in need of extra judicial protections. The legislation specifically states that judges may consider the fact that a criminal knew their victim to be a ward of DCFS and consider that knowledge as an aggravating factor when imposing sentences.

    "A series of recent articles reported that human traffickers often specifically target and recruit wards of the state who reside in group homes. Predators see them as especially vulnerable and susceptible to being lured into a life of prostitution," Cunningham said. "The new law would enable judges to enhance the sentences imposed on pimps and traffickers in those cases."

    Cunningham has worked closely with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart over the years to help craft good public policy in the criminal justice and corrections field. These two new laws are a direct result of that good working relationship.

    “I’m proud to have worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on this. We will continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable children and make their protection a priority,” Cunningham said.

  • martinez courtSPRINGFIELD — With the goal of protecting youth, Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) sponsored legislation in the Senate that would give child care facilities more authority when providing temporary residential services to children in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

    Martinez’s proposal was signed into law today.

    “I sponsored this legislation because, as a result of many children being cared for in temporary facilities for longer periods of time, it is necessary to institute policies that will keep them safe and off the streets,” Martinez said.

    Under the new law, any organization authorized by DCFS to provide temporary care to children will be required to establish and enforce curfews, maintain appropriate staffing levels and provide activities that engage the youth in its care.

    Additionally, they will be responsible for coming up with a plan to locate and return youth to the facility if they run away.

    House Bill 1530 ensures that temporary residential facilities are more responsible for the children in their care and have more power to protect their well-being.

    The law will be effective Jan. 1, 2016.