CBS (CHICAGO) — A report has found that it’s so difficult to remove children from their parents’ care, that many DCFS workers won’t even recommend removal to prosecutors. That’s just one of the shocking findings in a study released overnight by the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall.
Governor JB Pritzker asked the university think-tank to review the agency back in March, after the death of 2-year-old Ja’hir Gibbons. Gibbons died an hour after being brought to the hospital, covered in old and new bruises. His family was actively being visited by a DCFS contracted caseworker, who allegedly lied about seeing the boy on the case report filed two days before his death.
The report focuses on Intact Family Services, which provides in-house services to children allowed to remain in their parents’ homes during or after an investigation. It found that Intact, “provided little infrastructure support for incentivizing quality and monitoring performance. Intact services payments are tiered and taper with decreasing expectations for frequency of contact with families.”
The report found that the agency is so focused on keeping families together and kids out of foster care, that it often puts those kids they’re assigned to protect, in danger.
“There is a pervasive expectation that removals won’t be upheld by the State’s Attorney or the court,” according to the study. Communication problems were so rampant that Intact workers “often cannot access the investigator’s notes or key features of a lengthy case history.”
The report also raised concerns after high-risk cases were closed after only six months.
The study recommended nine ways to address the issues; which include refining protocol for closing cases, working with courts and state’s attorneys to refine criteria for removal, redesigning assessment and child intake processes, and giving direct attention to cases at greatest risk of severe harm.
Governor Pritzker has already made changes at DCFS. In March, he named Marc D. Smith the new head of the agency.