The Crusader Newspaper Group

Lawmakers want changes in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Just as Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith was held in contempt of court a seventh time, Republican lawmakers want immediate changes within the agency.

Smith was once again held in contempt for failing to place a child appropriately. In this case, the subject of the order is a 16-year-old boy who has spent more than 375 days in a shelter that does not have the resources to support his needs given his intellectual and cognitive disabilities, the Public Guardian’s office said.

During a news conference on Thursday, March 17, state Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, said Democrats are getting in the way of making changes at DCFS.

“We have filed legislation to try to fix this mess,” Reick said. “What have they done? They haven’t done a thing. The only thing they’ve done is jammed us up to try to get this thing fixed.”

In January, lawmakers held a virtual hearing on the DCFS, with some even suggesting overhauling the agency if Smith can’t right the ship.

State Rep. Tom Weber, R-Fox Lake, delivered an emotional plea on the House floor last week saying there have been too many tragedies.

“The stories that we hear and the failures at all levels, there continues to be resistance to change,” Weber said. “No state agency is above reproach or oversight, especially not an agency that is tasked with taking care of our children.”

Two children died in February after DCFS received allegations that they were abused.

An audit found that DCFS did not make timely determinations of whether reports of child abuse and neglect were credible. Under the law, DCFS has 60 days to make those findings.

The deaths of two DCFS case workers prompted legislation to allow employers to carry pepper spray while on visits.

Deidre Silas was stabbed to death Jan. 4 when she responded to a call of possible endangerment of children in Thayer. Silas’ death was the second time in less than five years the department has dealt with a tragedy. Pamela Knight, 59, died after a  brutal beating while attempting to remove a child from a home in Carroll County in 2017.

This article originally appeared on TheCenterSquare.

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