In strong terms, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today will tell an Illinois House Committee that the Department of Children and Family Services is failing and can only be rescued by new leadership with a visionary approach to caring for children.

The testimony comes in a hearing of the Illinois House Adoption and Child Welfare Committee called to examine the recent findings of a report by the Office of Inspector General finding that nearly 100 children in Illinois died while in contact with DCFS for the period between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

“Simply put, Illinois’ child welfare system is broken,” Nora Collins-Mandeville of the ACLU will tell the Committee in prepared testimony. “Many children in the Department’s custody have suffered often irrevocable, unnecessary harm.”

The ACLU has overseen a federal consent decree for many years in a case known as B.H. The organization has been forced to make several requests of the federal courts in recent years in order to get the Department to fund and provide basic services for children in their care.  The Department, as the ACLU makes clear in the testimony today, fails to provide the public – and even the legislature – with basic information about its operations. 

The ACLU will tell the Committee that some issues are owed to the “revolving door” of leadership – eight directors in five years – at the agency in recent years. But the ACLU says that there is no more time to begin to address fundamental issues in order to avoid a full collapse of DCFS.  

“The Department desperately needs new leadership. It needs someone who will recognize the long-standing and new challenges the Department faces, who will use an evidence-based approach to address those problems,” Collins-Mandeville will tell the Committee.