Friday, January 24, 2014

Juvenile Justice director returns to DCFS to head that agency

By Jamey Dunn

The director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is returning to his former employer, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service, this time to lead the agency.

Gov. Pat Quinn announced this afternoon that Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop will be director of DCFS. Bishop started working at DCFS in the 1990s and rose to the post of deputy director of field operations. He took over at the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2010 for former director Kurt Friedenauer, who resigned after Quinn announced a desire the merge the two agencies. Legislation was passed and signed into law by Quinn in 2010 to allow the two agencies to share some resources, but a full merger has yet to be realized. “Arthur Bishop is a long-standing public servant who has dedicated his professional career to helping Illinois families,” Quinn said in a written statement. “I am confident that he will carry out the mission of the department by making the safety and well-being of children across the state priority number one.”

Bishop will replace former DCFS Director Richard Calica, who died in December. Calica resigned in November after being diagnosed with cancer. “I appreciate this new undertaking from Gov. Quinn and for the continued opportunity to serve our state,” Bishop said in a prepared statement. “Every child deserves a safe environment, and there is no greater responsibility than keeping our children out of harm’s way. I am eager to work with department staff to ensure we carry out the mission of protecting and serving the youngest residents of our state.”

Both Child and Family Services and Juvenile Justice have faced their share of troubles in recent years. DCFS 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 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 by the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ Chicago. A recent U.S. Department of Justice survey found that 15 percent of respondents had experienced sexual assault while detained by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The agency is in the process of entering into a legal agreement to make improvements in the areas of areas of education, mental health treatment, use of solitary confinement, safety and after care provided once offenders are released. Juvenile Justice department Chief of Staff Era Laudermilk will become acting director of the agency.

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