The Department Of Children And Family Services


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The Department Of Children And Family Services

  1. 1. Introduction: The Department of Children and Family Services provides care for 3,187,332 children in the United States. In the State of Illinois there are 19,300 children living in state care. And in the county of Cook there are 3,702 children living in substitutive care, 2,122 in foster homes, and 1,074 with a relative, and 506 children living in institutions or group homes. Yet, the Department of Children and Family Services has been repeatedly criticized by outside groups like the ACLU and various Media sources focusing on the rare occurances rather than the reality that the Department of Children and Family Services is providing quality care for the children in need of its services. Consequently, the misleading information that is circulating about the Department of Children and Family Services is creating great mistrust among sources that fund the department. Resultantly, public support for the agency, both moral and financial, is on the decline. Therefore, in an effort to discover the facts about the Department of Children and Family Services and the services the children receive while in state care, statistics and literature will be reviewed. Additionally, several interviews of employees of the agency will be conducted which offers a perspective into the agency that might otherwise be ignored. However, in order to provide the reader with the most accurate information the general information about the agency must first be detailed.
  2. 2. Literature Review: The Department of Children and Family Services is directed by Brian Samuels. Brian Samuels (2003) introduces the agency by boasting about the about the state of Illinois being, “the nation’s largest state welfare agency to earn accreditation from the Council of Accreditation for Children and Family Services (COA.)” Samuels also details how the Department of Children and Family Services is structured detailing its six geographic divisions; Cook, North Cook, Cook Central, Cook South, Northern, Southern, and Central regions. Additionally, Samuels (2003) details the various departments involved in caring for the children listing; The Department of Child Protection, Placement Permancy, Field Operations, Guardian and Advocacy, Clinical Practice and Professional Development, Service Intervention, Budget and Finance, Planning and Performances, and Communications. According to Doreen Kinsella(2003), the Department of Child Protection is responsible for, “the provision of an advisory and consultancy service to education establishments, officers, governors, advisers and support services on policies, and procedures and practices relating to child protection. Placement Permancy is the department that reviews whether or not a permanent home is suitable for a child’s situation and how to place a child in a permanent home. The Field Operations division is responsible for investigating calls into the Child protection Hotline. The Guardian and Advocacy division is responsible for advocating on behalf of the children in state care. This includes being present at important court, doctor, school, and other appointments that are related to an individual child’s case. The department of Clinical Practice and
  3. 3. Professional Development is responsible for researching and implementing new and improved ways of taking care of children and setting new standards for employees of the Department of Children and Family Services. The department of Service Interventions is responsible for following up all situations that require intervention like, suicidal behavior, runaways, drug intervention, and abuse. The department of Budget and Finance is responsible for proposing, allotting, and distributing all finances necessary for caring for the children in state care. The Department of Planning and Performance oversees the development of new facilities and programs. The department of communications is responsible for relaying to the public and its interests what is going on in the Department of Children and Family Services and defending the Department of Children and Family Services from accusations or stories that may be circulating about the agency, its employees, or children. According to the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services website, “as of January of 2004 there were 19,338 children living in substitutive care, foster care, or institutions because of abuse, neglect, or chemical dependency.” The goal of the State is these situations is to first of all protect the children, provide the necessary services for the child in need, and then if at all possible re-unite families if at all possible once a home or situation has been deemed safe. The Department of Children and Family Services is not intended to be a permanent situation for all children. The ultimate goal, aside from protecting children, is to keep families together whenever possible. However, in the interim children in need of foster care or other state care are said to be placed in or have access to various services that include; “Foster Family care, Relative Care, Group Home or Institutional Care, Independent Living arrangements, Protective Day Care
  4. 4. Homemakers, Counseling, Psychological assessments, Health Care, Crisis Intervention, Aid for Pregnant or Parenting teens, and Preparation of Youth or Independent Living.” According to the National Child Watch Program (2003) of the 3,187,332 children that were state care the reasons that warranted the removal included physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and other reason. Statistically, 11.37% of the children had suffered physical abuse before entering into the system, 48.28% of the children had suffered from neglect or deprivation, 11% had suffered from sexual abuse, 1.29% had suffered from psychological or emotional abuse, and 43.24 % of the children had been removed from homes. The cost to care for the children that had been removed according to CPS varies because of the different types of care that a child may require. For children living in regular foster care the cost is about $11,957 for each child. For a child living in relative care the cost is estimated at, $11, 231. For a child living in specialized care the cost is estimated to be $32,536. For children living in unlocked multiple facilities the cost is estimated at $86,271. For all of the children living independently the cost is estimated at $46,252. The average cost of a child is estimated at being $16,425. Despite theses facts, knowingly or unknowingly, some researchers claim that the Department is inefficient and neglectful. According to Trudy Festinger, a researcher and head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work, “…nationally, 28% of the children in state care had been abuse while in the system.” Additionally, The Children’s Right Project is documented as saying, “there are a lot of injuries, a lot of abuses. The most significant thing is the psychological deaths of so many of these kids. Kids are being destroyed everyday, destroyed by a government funded system set out to help them.” (1998) Furthermore, John Hagedorn (1998)
  5. 5. believes that the system is not set up in a manner to help children. Rather, the system is set up in a manner is exists exclusively for the benefit of the upper portion of the hierarchy, top officials and executives. Media Resources like the Associated Press comments about the efficiency of the agency saying, “in nearly half of the states, cases take years to come to completion as agencies repeatedly fail to investigate abuse reports in a timely fashion, find permanent homes for children, or even keep track of those children under their care and custody.” (1998) On a relatively consistent basis newspapers publish stories about cases of abuse and neglect in a manner that suggests the cases reflect what happens with a child when they are placed in the system. One example of such an incident is the publication of a story about a child by the name of Tara M. who while in foster care was, “forced to strip by her foster parents in the bathtub and was doused with buckets of scalding water as a form of punishment.”(1998) Also, in California there was a story published about a, “23- month old child that was allegedly beaten to death over toilet training by the foster mother of the boy.” (1998) Again, additionally stories have been published by media sources that depict children being removed from their biological parents and denied the services that the institution claims to provide. In this particular case, Juan and Julie, fraternal twins, were denied medical treatment while in the care of their foster parents for physical abuse they had suffered before entering into the system. Sadly, and ultimately the children both died. Without denying these allegations and victimizing these children again, one must remember that the media sources that have published these stories have so in a manner that gives the reader the impression that this type of treatment is common among children in the care of the state. Most representative of this notion is the fact that
  6. 6. in the case of Juan and Julie, both of the children were removed to the care of the hospital. After a few weeks the hospital sent the children home without fully treating the children. The decision that the children were able to go home was made by a doctor. Resulting in the death of both children because of an infection that was overlooked by the doctor, not because of the care the children received while in foster care. Publications of such material in such a manner have resulted in a loss of moral and financial support. Statistics show that in 2001, support of the agency from private citizens declined from, “$31,740 to $23,421 in 2002.” And, the money allotted to DCFS from various locations also declined from 416,000,600 dollars in 2002 to $410,000,300.” Important to remember is that the federal government allots each state $68,000,000 a year for taking care of children in need. An increase in funds used to take care of children is achieved by states allotting more funds each state feels is necessary. These funds come from private and public sectors that may include citizens, businesses, or the state fund. Despite the decline in support and negative statements that the system is inefficient and does not appropriately take care of children, evidence proves otherwise. The reality is that there have been many programs set into place to ensure that children in state care are being taken care of in the best possible manner. According documents, the Federal government instituted a law as of April 1, 1997 that required all government employees, caregivers, teachers, and social service workers to be given a mandatory background check to ensure the safety of the children in state care. The amendment came into effect as of January, 1, 2004. The law details the process an organization, an institution, or a private citizen must complete in order to be a state qualified caregiver. Additionally according to the article, “The human Rights Update:
  7. 7. Settlement promises improvement for Illinois Kids,”(1991) there was a reduction in the number of cases a case-worker could take in that was placed into effect in 1997. Further, a system called the IDCFS Integrated System was developed by the University of Chicago. This system integrated the current systems, the Child abuse and neglect Tracking System and the Child and Youth Centered informational system, creating a system that tracks all kids in a better manner. Not to mention, the system can tell whether a kid is under state control which furthers the monitoring abilities of state officials on the children in substitutive care. Additionally, there have been major changes in the way the state looks after children in relative care. Looking after and caring for children in state care is very challenging. However, according to the “Children in Youth Services Review” children that have been placed in “kinship” care are even more difficult to follow. That is, until recently, there have not been any type of restrictions placed on relatives who agree to take care of removed children resulting in tragedy. However, in an attempt to squash this problem the federal government is now placing the same standards on a the relatives that agree to take care of a removed child as they would place on a person that is a qualified state caregiver. Not only did this result in better care of the children in kinship care, but it resulted in greater support of families that agree to care for a kin, however, as the Review states, “not all the states followed and implemented the statuses of the amendment. “In a study, there were only 10 states that enforced the same rules on a relative that agreed to take care of a kin and government qualified caregivers. The other 41 states offer kin at least one other assessment standard that is different than non-kin standards. Of these 41, 25 states provided foster care payments to the kin meeting the different standards. Also, there
  8. 8. were 39 states that placed a child in the care of a kin without seeking state custody.” (2002). Not seeking state custody of children before they are placed with a relative is a big problem. These Children face greater hardships like poverty and continued abuse while in the care of a relative. The state of Illinois continues to improve the Department of Children and Family Services. Governor Blagoavich allotted an additional $169,200,000 to the agency for 2005. The money will be used to improve the Integrated Assessment Program, educating wards of the state, a new residential monitoring system, and providing better mental health care for all of the children in the state of Illinois. Some critics of the federal government have created and proposed better systems that they believe are more efficient in time, effort, and money. An Article written by Phillip Garnier titled, “Using Administrative Data to Access Child Safety in Out of the Home Care” believes that “the current system could be improved if a national system was set into place that could identify all children in the system and connect every state’s reports of child abuse.” Additionally, many theorists believe that one way to improve the system is to rely more heavily on and use family members to take care of children that have been removed from their parent or parents. However, according to Jennifer Ehrle and Rob Green in their study that is not an answer. In a study conducted by Jennifer Ehrle and Rob Green in an effort to research whether or not relatives of children can be relied on for caring for removed children, three groups were studied, children in non-kin foster care, children in kinship care, and children in voluntary kinship care. The children that are in voluntary kinship care are placed in the care of a relative but without the state being involved. The findings
  9. 9. suggested, “children in kin arrangements faced greater hardships than those in non-kin care. They more often lived in poor families and experienced food insecurity. They were more likely to live with a non-married caregiver who is not working and does not have a high school degree. Research Design: In my research I used the program/site evaluation design. This design required that I review many different sources to become more informed about the Department of Children and Family Services. Additionally, in order to properly access whether the agency is living up to the goal of protecting, caring, and reuniting children and families, statistics were analyzed and employees were interviewed. Data and Methods: Name Position How I got Access Location of Interview Respondent 1 Social Worker/Lawyer Family Member 5209 Fredrick Ct Respondent 2 Psychologist Family Friend Lisle Illinois Respondent 3 Social Worker Family Friend Oak Park Library Respondent 4 Administrator Walk-in Respondents office Respondent 5 Administrator Walk-in Respondents office
  10. 10. Findings: The Department of Children and Family Services is criticized on a daily basis. Critics like the ACLU, media sources like the Associated Press, and people like Trudy Festinger and John Hagedorn are documented critics of the Department of Children and Family Services and are a few sources perpetuating negative images of the agency. However, after reviewing literature and statistics about the Department of Children and Family Services the comments by these critics are not warranted and are inaccurate. Facts show that the current system that is set in place is constructed in a manner that protects and cares for the children in need of state care. In an effort to prove this assertion an analysis and comparison of five interviews will be complete. All of the interviews will ask each respondent about his or her job, whether or not he or she believes the negative publicity is an accurate description of the system, about the children in state care, why cases like Tara M. and Juan and Julie are present in the system, what reforms if any need to be done to the current system, and whether or not a complete demise of the system is necessary and would benefit the children in the care of the Department of Children Services. Most importantly however, is the united belief shared by each respondent that the system that is set into place is not responsible for abusing and neglecting children. But rather, individuals that have or currently work for the department are responsible. Furthermore, getting rid of the current system in favor of a completely different system is irresponsible and will hurt children more than if people work on and improve the current system.
  11. 11. In deciding to interview people who had or are working with the Department of Children and Family Services it became clear that it was essential to interview people from different divisions to gain greater accuracy about the agency. The first respondent was a female that was twenty-eight and graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelors degree in Political Science. In continuing her studies respondent 1 went to the Loyola’s Erickson Institute where she graduated with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Development. In an effort to further her studies respondent 1 applied for an internship program with the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. In Washington respondent 1 worked on legislation to improve the current child welfare system. It was in Washington that respondent 1 became interested in the legalities of the agency and concluded that she was going to pursue a J.D. After applying five Universities she was accepted into the University of Michigan’s combined J.D./PH.D program where she completed her studies in 2003. In March of 2003 respondent 1 accepted a job with the legal department of the Department of Children and Family Services. She has been working with the agency for a little over a year when this interview took place on March 14, 2004. Her duties included defending children and prosecuting parents, institutions, and organizations in abuse and neglect cases. Respondent 2 is a female that is thirty-six years old. She graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign where she earned an undergraduate degree in psychology. After she completed her studies respondent 2 accepted a position at an institution named “Mooseheart the Child City.” After two years of working at Mooseheart and working on a graduate degree in social work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, respondent 2 pursued a PH.D at the same university. At the age of twenty-
  12. 12. nine respondent 2 applied for a position with the Department of Children and Family Services and began working there in 1996. Currently she is working with the department and believes that she will continue her work with the department as long as she can. When asked what her duties were respondent 2 replied, “I am to treat the children who have been placed in state care. I address problems like transitioning into the system, behavioral disorder, sex abuse, physical abuse, neglect, depression, and many other disorders…” Respondent 3 is a male social worker that is thirty three years old. He obtained an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a graduate degree in social work. Respondent 3 obtained a job with the Department of Children and Family Services in 1995 and has worked with both children and adults in state care. When asked about his job requirements he stated, “I am a social worker in the department that has worked with both children and adults. When I am working with children I create a plane of action that fits the needs of each child. Depending on the type of service the child requires, I work with different people to ensure that the child’s needs are being met. Most importantly however is trying to find a suitable permanent residence for each child.” Respondent 4 is an administrative assistant in the Field Work division. She is fourty-two years old. She graduated with an undergraduate degree in business and obtained a job with the Department of Children and Family Services in their communications division where she worked for 10 years. After obtaining a graduated degree in social work from Loyola University she transferred over to the Field Work Division where she has been working for 6 years. When asked about her duties she
  13. 13. responded by saying “I am responsible for organizing the Field Work Department. I oversee each social workers cases and relay them to other departments. Additionally, I try to keep the field workers on task and make sure they do their job ethically and completely.” Respondent 5 is a female that is thirty eight years old. She graduated with an undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1990. She has been working with the Department of Children and Family services for about fourteen years. She started her career with the agency and has worked in 3 divisions. Currently, she is an administrator in the Child Protections division. Her duties include, “following all reports and calls founded and unfounded to the agency. Additionally she works with the University of Chicago in connecting reports made to the center and reports about children that are in the care of the state.” After getting acquainted with each of the respondents and their positions, duties, views about the children in state care, and whether or not they believe the negative publicity to be accurate, similarities and difference began to emerge. Similarly speaking, all of the respondents are currently working with the Department of Children and Family Services.