In response to a recent Chicago Tribune editorial “Gov. Pritzker, DCFS' revolving door puts kids at risk," ACLU of Illinois Legal Director Ben Wolf wrote the below letter to the editor (published here):
DCFS chief’s exit good news
As the lawyers for the children in Illinois’ child welfare agency, we share an interest in ending the revolving door of leadership at the Department of Children and Family Services (“Gov. Pritzker, DCFS' revolving door puts kids at risk,” Feb. 3). We strongly take issue with the assertion, though, that departing acting Director Beverly “B.J.” Walker has positively impacted the lives and safety of our clients.
Just last year, in the face of reports that DCFS youths placed at the Chicago Lakeshore Hospital on the North Side were in an unsafe environment, Walker delayed removing the children. Instead, she continued to authorize new admissions to the facility — as evidence of physical and sexual abuse mounted.
Walker’s record at DCFS is decidedly dismal. She impeded meaningful work toward developing services and resources to assist DCFS children most in need of care. She failed to address the roiling crisis of children remaining hospitalized beyond medical necessity. DCFS under her watch has done little, if anything, to develop stable, noninstitutional in-state placements for youth who need more than traditional foster homes can offer. These children can live in a foster setting with appropriate services tailored for the individual needs of each child.
It would have been troubling for Walker to remain at DCFS. She had no concrete vision for improving the department. Her departure opens the possibility for Illinois to build a child welfare system that provides targeted services to address the needs and desires for each child. Gov. J.B. Pritzker should nominate a director who is creative, open and innovative, and unafraid to roll up his or her sleeves to develop, encourage and implement new services and programs that benefit the children in DCFS, elevating children’s safety over all others.
Sometimes a change in leadership is necessary to remove impediments to real change. This change can be good for DCFS and the children who rely on the state for their care.
— Benjamin Wolf, legal director, American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois