The Belleville News-Democrat has done a splendid job turning over the rock under which the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services hides its blunders.
Last Sunday reporters George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer unleashed stories about DCFS lapses that led to the deaths of children worthy of the Chicago Tribune or Sun-Times.
Whether related or not, Governor Rod Blagojevich’s DCFS Director Rich Samuels resigned the week before publication. Samuels refused to be interviewed for the articles.
Yesterday, McHenry County Blog wrote about a 1979 death that might have been prevented by DCFS in Crystal Lake.
Here’s the guts of this week's story:
The News-Democrat found that 53 children died between September 1998 and January 2005 after DCFS workers and employees of contracted private agencies committed serious errors, made questionable judgments, and failed to follow department regulations.The editors know you won’t want to read their stories. Here’s what they say,
Reading our series about 53 children who died as the result of botched DCFS cases is a distasteful accompaniment to toast and orange juice at breakfast, we know. Many people probably put the series down and never picked it up again. It's human nature to want to avoid or ignore difficult topics like this.You can read the details of the deaths here.
And actually, that's exactly how some people at the Department of Children and Family Services hope you reacted. If they had their way, the details of child death cases would never be made public. They like it that most records are sealed. A number of the workers worry about "heater cases" -- cases that can result in negative press. No negative press, no problem.
A mother tells of how DCFS failed to protect her son here.
An article debating whether it the police could do a better job than case workers is here. The comments below the article, especially the ones from those in the know about DCFS are fascinating. Astounding is the number of times there was absolutely no discipline.
12 dead children could not be identified. The reporters ask for assistance.
Of course, DCFS is doing a review.
What happened to the caseworkers?
… out of the 50 cases that had substantial errors, not one worker was fired. Just seven workers were suspended, and then for relatively short times.Sounds like not much has changed since 1979.
As the editors say,
But it's not that DCFS can't get rid of bad employees, it's that its leaders don't have the will to do it. It's easier for DCFS to avoid and ignore difficult situations, also, than to fix things.Does that sound like any other public institution?
Claudia from Iowa wrote in the comments to the editorial entitled, “Hold DCFS Accountable,
I am a licensed master level social worker who also has a BA in Psychology and Sociology. I agree the system has to change but as I am reading these cases it seems that most of them were investigated several times with the same sad result! Even after many cases were investigated the workers involved only received a slap on the hand even when THEIR mistakes resulted in death!! Making these cases public is a great step.There are a lot more good comments.
First posted on McHenry County Blog.