- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 13, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services likely lost out on about $40 million in federal money in the last two years because it failed to process paperwork, according to acting director George Sheldon.

“With the fiscal crisis that Illinois is in, I think it’s inexcusable.” Sheldon told the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1P0Xwh2 ).

Sheldon said the problem was due to paperwork and largely a consequence of having eight agency leaders in five years.

“You had this revolving door of directors,” he said. “With the turmoil this agency has been under, this is the kind of attention to detail that makes a difference in the ability of the department to deliver a product.”

After a months-long bureaucratic effort to fix the lapses, Sheldon said $21.5 million in new federal funds flowed to the agency this fiscal year and $16.5 million is expected for the fiscal year that begins in July.

Officials say about 600 wards ages 18 to 21 were classified incorrectly as dependents, though many were living on their own. That meant the agency got a little more than half of its entitled federal funds. The additional money can be used to serve all juvenile wards.

Getting those changes made required agency officials to get court approval from juvenile court judges, and those discussions began in the summer. Officials began filing paperwork changes in late August.

At least $14 million of the new federal funds will be used for a court-ordered overhaul of the agency. The newspaper found in 2014 that hundreds of juvenile wards were reportedly assaulted and raped annually at residential treatment centers.

The agency is expected to submit a reform plan to a federal judge in late February.

Most of the other federal funding hasn’t been allocated, aside from bolstering pilot projects, such as plans to spend $396,000 a year to support a Cook County Sheriff’s Office team that locates runaway wards who may be exploited.


Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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