Seeking to address systemic issues inside the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution calling on DCFS to implement without delay a new federal measure designed to fundamentally reimagine the provision of quality services by child welfare agencies.  House Resolution 362, offered by State Representative Mary Flowers, urges the State of Illinois to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act and take advantage of new resources and innovative strategies to reform Illinois’ broken child welfare system and drive positive outcomes for youth.

“All children across Illinois deserve to grow up in safe, secure, and stable families. This is the primary goal of child welfare agencies and DCFS. Implementing all aspects of the Family First Prevention Services Act would provide the Illinois legislature with a groundbreaking opportunity to transform our child welfare system. I look forward to working with Governor Pritzker and my colleagues to invest in these reforms and repair what is currently a failed child protection system,” said State Representative Mary Flowers, sponsor of H.R. 362.

The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into federal law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act in February 2018. The Actaims to avoid the unnecessary placement of children into the foster care system by providing critical federal funds for promising programs and well-supported practices in mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training. The broad availability of these services can assist families in need – keeping children in their homes safely. The Act also works to ensure children are placed in the least restrictive, most family-like setting appropriate to their special needs.

“In Illinois, we desperately need to reform our approach to the child welfare system to ensure it is responsive to the specific needs of children and their families.  When the state removes children from their parents in the name of child safety, we owe these children the best possible care.  Implementing the FFPSA will go a long way to providing the additional resources and flexibility needed to overhaul our prevention and intervention system and find the right solutions to support each family in need,” said Nora Collins-Mandeville, Director of Systems Reform Policy, ACLU of Illinois.

The FFPSA also provides tangible ways to improve equity, including: requiring states to develop individualized prevention plans for children to remain safely at home or reside with a kin caregiver with proven quality services; and recruiting and retaining foster parents and relative caregivers, especially for youth overrepresented in congregate care like LGBTQ youth and youth with serious mental health challenges.

“It’s time we break down the silos between government agencies, embrace communities as equal partners, and work together to create a real continuum of outcome-driven services that support children and families when they need it, where they need it, and how they need it,” added Collins-Mandeville.