Friday, November 15, 2013

DCFS director steps down

Richard Calica, the director of the state’s troubled Department of Children and Family Services, announced today that he is stepping down from the agency because of health concerns.

According to a news release from Gov. Pat Quinn’s office, Calica, who has been diagnosed with cancer, has resigned his position. DCFS Chief of Staff Denise Gonzales is now acting director. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve under Governor Quinn,” Calica, who has served as director since 2011, said in a prepared statement. “This has been the most exciting and rewarding time of my career in child welfare. The reforms that we’ve put in place will maximize this agency’s ability to ensure the safety of children who are at risk of abuse and neglect for years to come.”

Calica came into the job at a difficult time for DCFS. The agency was violating a federal consent decree by having too few front line investigators and had awarded millions of dollars to contractors for work that could not be verified. Calica was a social worker for much of his career and served as executive director of the Chicago-based Jane Addams-founded Juvenile Protective Association. His blunt nature sometime ruffled feathers during his time at DCFS. He oversaw a rebalancing of staff in an effort to come into compliance with the federal court order. That change added 138 new front line investigators and cut caseloads in half. However, DCFS still has its problems. During the last fiscal year, child deaths from abuse or neglect hit a 30-year high in the state, according to an investigation from the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Chicago.

Calica plans to work with DCFS on its transition to new leadership. “My prayers are with director Calica and his family during this very difficult time,” Quinn said in a prepared statement. “Director Calica has taken this agency in the right direction, and he always put the safety of our most vulnerable children first. We are deeply grateful for his dedicated public service, which has saved countless lives.”

Form more on Calica, see this profile from Illinois Issues June 2012.

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