Three years ago the Illinois Department of Human Services won a grant from the Ford Foundation’s Work Support Strategies program to “streamline” its offices. The problem: The number of clients was rising as the economy collapsed, and staff had been reduced by 40 percent in recent years. Department officials reported that “families were not being effectively served and staff were overburdened,” according to an assessment by the Urban Institute. But if you ask staff and clients at DHS’s Northern Office in Skokie today, the “streamlining” effort — piloted in five DHS offices and now set for statewide expansion — has only made things worse. “We’ve had to add staff,” said Robert Cramer, a caseworker supervisor.
The number of children who were killed while under the supervision of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services declined last fiscal year, according to a report released last week by the agency’s Office of Inspector General. The homicide count dropped to 16 from a record-breaking 28 in fiscal year 2012. The report states that 13 children were killed while under DCFS supervision or within a year of the dismissal of a child abuse case. Three children were killed in street shootings, according to the inspector general’s report, which covers homicides between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013. The state agency has a history of problems protecting abused children dating back to the late ’80s when the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all children in the custody of DCFS.