CHICAGO (AP) - The troubled state agency overseeing child welfare in Illinois agreed to allow outside experts to help monitor residential treatment centers and placement services under a court document approved Tuesday by a federal judge.
Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois settled on a short-term compliance plan which says the agency will resume using University of Illinois at Chicago clinicians and provide regular reports while longer-term solutions are drafted.
The agency’s problems have been widely publicized since a 1988 class-action lawsuit over management led to a consent decree. More recently, newspaper investigations have revealed problems and state legislators have called for change. The latest agreement follows a March lawsuit by the ACLU alleging “dangerously inadequate” care and services and is part of the consent decree.
“The experts are going to help us deal with the most acute problems,” said ACLU attorney Ben Wolf.
DCFS officials were “encouraged by the agreement” and look forward to ensuring “the agreement is implemented to the satisfaction of the court and the children and families we serve,” agency spokesman Andrew Flach said in a statement.
The Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ have recently published stories about child-abuse and neglect deaths. The Chicago Tribune has run a series detailing reported claims of abuse, violence and prostitution at residential treatment centers where some wards of the state are housed.
The monitors are affiliated with the university’s department of psychiatry. DCFS had previously used such clinicians, but later moved to in-house monitoring. The university experts will be given access to residential treatment centers and will review services for children who have been waiting “excessive time” for foster care placements. Both sides plan to submit recommended experts to assess long-term solutions.
DCFS officials said they didn’t expect the agreement would create a “substantial impact” on the agency’s budget and would use resources that have already been allocated.
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