CHICAGO - Budget cuts forced by Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly endanger the safety and lives of children in the state's foster care system. The draconian budget cuts set to go into effect on July 1st severely impair the ability of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to ensure the well-being and welfare of vulnerable children in their care and violate a federal court agreement that is responsible for transforming the previously-troubled agency. These charges form the basis of an emergency motion filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois seeking to enforce critical terms of the consent decree monitored by the U.S. District Court in Chicago. Judge John Grady will hear arguments in support of the ACLU of Illinois' efforts to enforce the decree on Monday, June 29th at 5:00 p.m. in Room 2201 of the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago.
"The Governor and the legislature need to understand that this state's budget cannot be balanced on the backs of its most vulnerable residents - children in foster care," said Benjamin Wolf, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois announcing the filing of the complaint. "This state recognized when it agreed to the consent decree that the child welfare system was a disaster, and they agreed to specific steps to reform DCFS. Now is not the time to retreat from that commitment and derail this important process."
In recent days, the full impact that the 50% cut in DCFS budget will have on safety and well-being of children in foster care in Illinois has become clear. The Governor's Chief of Staff estimated, as an example, that the caseload of DCFS staff workers' will more than triple, from 15 children (at present) to as many as 50 children. Likewise, the budget cuts nearly double the DCFS investigator caseloads, from 11 active investigations to 20 active cases at any one time. Both of these figures violate the consent decree and place children at risk since caseworkers and investigators do not have the time and attention to focus on the needs of an individual child.
Never thought I'd ever see the ACLU doing something that made sense.
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