DCFS

  • Feigenholtz: AJ Freund case a reminder that there is still work to be done

    ajfreund 072020CHICAGO – A judge in McHenry Country sentenced JoAnn Cunningham to 35 years in prison Friday for the murder of AJ Freund, her 5-year-old son. State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who established a bipartisan, bicameral working group to address shortfalls in the Department of Children and Family Services in the wake of AJ’s death, stressed the importance of addressing and fixing these issues.

    “There is no possible sentence that could provide justice to AJ Freund,” Feigenholtz said. “He was only five years old, and was killed by someone who was supposed to be taking care of him. The unfortunate reality is that until we can address and fix the issues plaguing DCFS, AJ’s story won’t be the last.”

    Cunningham killed Freund in April of 2019 in what Judge Robert Wilbrandt described as “inhumane, repulsive and, frankly, shocking” actions. Freund was beaten to death by Cunningham while in their home on April 19, 2019, and was buried in a shallow, unmarked grave by his father, Drew Freund. He was found six days later.

    The case shined a light onto the deficiencies in the DCFS system, which Freund and Cunningham were a part of, and prompted Feigenholtz to push for the formation of the working group.

    “After I heard the tragic news of AJ’s death, my stance was that we as a legislature need to continue our diligent work so that we can ensure DCFS and its partner agencies have the resources and tools they require to protect all of the children that fall under their care,” Feigenholtz said. “We made some progress, but there is still a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to be done.”

    Cunningham faced up to a maximum of 60 years in prison. Under Friday’s sentencing, she is ineligible for parole. Drew Freund is also charged with first-degree murder but has not yet faced trial.

  • Morrison works to preserve human services funding

    dcfs worker mask 052020DEERFIELD —As State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) and her colleagues returned to Springfield Wednesday, she has vowed to fight for human services funding in the Fiscal Year ’21 budget, especially for the Department of Children and Family Services.

    “Many agencies that are tasked with helping and protecting our state’s most vulnerable populations already struggle with too few resources,” Morrison said. “Illinois should be a leader in showing all people are valuable and deserve to be treated with human dignity.”

  • Belt announces additional support to childcare providers and essential workers

    Sen. Christopher Belt

    SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) announces the expansion of support to childcare workers and other essential workers during this COVID-19 crisis.

    “During this crisis essential workers still need someone to watch over their children, which is why this additional support to childcare centers is critical,” Belt said. “This ensures that their kids are still safe while increasing the affordability at these centers in the time being.”

  • Jones announces additional support to essential workers

    Sen. Emil Jones IIISPRINGFIELD – State Senator Emil Jones, III (D-Chicago) announced Monday the expansion of support to childcare workers and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Essential workers do not have the luxury of staying home during this crisis,” Jones said. “Doctors and nurses are working day in and day out so it’s important these childcare centers are sustained to support these essential employees."

  • Peters moves to help foster youth apply for college financial aid

    peters 031020SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) advanced a bill that would help youth in foster care apply for college financial aid.

    “The state needs to be proactive at helping foster kids build a strong future during their final years of care,” Peters said. “We need to do all we can to ensure that they have access to education or job training before they have to live on their own.”

    Senator Peters’ measure requires the Department of Child and Family Services to assist all youth in their care with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) during their final year of high school. The legislation is an initiative of the National Association of Social Workers.

  • Bennett steers families to resources regarding DCFS insurance switch

    bennett 020520SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) raised concerns following the transition of DCFS children with complex needs into the Medicaid managed care form Wednesday.

    Days after nearly 19,000 adopted children and former foster children transitioned to Medicaid managed care, an estimated 2,500 were affected by a glitch that has left them without insurance since Saturday.

    The Senate Human Services committee held a hearing Tuesday to address concerns with the oversight of Medicaid managed care agencies in hopes to find a solution.

    “There is a lack of communication with the agencies and it’s being taken out on the families,” Senator Bennett said. “We need to ensure these individuals have access to the health care they need and are kept informed – we have to stay aggressive to get this resolved.”

    For health care coverage inquiries and dispute resolution, Bennett urges residents to call the Illinois DCFS Advocacy Office for Children and Families at 800-232-3798 or 217-524-2029, fax 217-557-7278 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    To verify that your provider is part of the YouthCare network, call 844-289-2264 and ask for the Rapid Response Team or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    For general questions, contact YouthCare at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Illinois DCFS at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    For any additional questions, Bennett encourages residents to contact his office at 217-782-2507.

  • Senators call for answers on DCFS insurance switch

    morrison 020420State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) led a conversation Tuesday about the oversight of Medicaid managed care and the transition of DCFS children into the program.

    “The state is responsible for these children and must make sure they have access to health care,” Morrison said. “I wouldn’t want my own child to be enrolled in this poorly managed program.”

    The hearing comes just days after nearly 19,000 adopted children and former foster children transitioned to Medicaid managed care. Of those 19,000 people, at least 2,500 were affected by a glitch that has left them without insurance since Saturday.

    A representative from the Cook County Public Guardian’s office said during the committee hearing that the office was flooded with calls about the broken system over the weekend. Complaints ranged from a 14-year old girl who needed seizure medication and the pharmacy would not supply it, to children who were sick and couldn’t find a doctor who would take their insurance card.

    More than 17,000 current foster children are set to transition to the same program April 1, and advocates are worried it still won’t be running smoothly by then.

    “Why would anyone think this program was adequate for kids formerly in care but not kids currently in the system?” Morrison asked. “It’s a double standard, and we shouldn’t force this vulnerable population to enter this dysfunctional program.”

    Members of the Senate called on the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to focus on fixing the program before the second round of roll outs. 

  • Morrison: DCFS has failed to protect the rights of youths

    Sen. Julie A. MorrisonSPRINGFIELD – Two youths, ages 15 and 17, were handcuffed and shackled at their feet while being driven from a youth shelter to another living arrangement, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

    The teens were both restrained for nearly 30 miles in early October while being moved by a company hired by DCFS from Chicago to Palatine. The incident is now being investigated.

    State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) released the following statement:

    “When we dishonor one person’s rights, we dishonor everyone’s rights,” Senator Morrison said. “DCFS’s failure to provide oversight and accountability on their contractors has caused another violation. This situation underscores my commitment to reform this troubled agency.”

  • New Peters law establishes stipend program for apprenticeships

    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 on nomination of new DCFS director: Announcement offers chance to restructure troubled agency

    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 calls for more child abuse prevention services in rural Illinois

    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.”

  • Parents no longer forced to choose between custody or care of children under new bill by Fine

    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 seeks solutions to failing DCFS system

    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 calls on DCFS to immediately release child abuse data

    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.”

  • McGuire salutes community-DCFS dialogue

    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.

  • Hearing highlights failures, needed reforms at DCFS

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  • Morrison meets with new acting director of DCFS

    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 seeks answers from DCFS in death of Joliet child

    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.

  • Hearing reveals progress, shortcomings in DCFS ability to provide data on children in care

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  • Cunningham legislation to protect DCFS wards signed into law

    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.