CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois agency responsible for child welfare is taking back from contractors control of some high-risk cases after a newspaper investigation revealed a surge in child deaths since it privatized some services.
DCFS Deputy Director of Child Protection, Nora Harms-Pavelski, announced at a legislative hearing Tuesday that the agency is taking back some of the higher-risk cases from contracted nonprofits. She says the agency is also receiving immediate reports on any instance of mistreatment of a child in the "intact family services" program, among other reforms.
She said DCFS is working to "make sure we have communication with those intact agencies."
The program changes come after a Chicago Tribune investigation found 15 children died of abuse or neglect from 2012 to 2016 while their families were enrolled in the family services program. Only one death occurred under the program from 2007 to 2011. The investigation found that the spike in deaths came after DCFS privatized the program, shifting the care of families to nonprofit groups.
Sen. Julie A. Morrison, D-Deerfield, said more hearings for the agency are being planned.
"Rather than being reactive, it is my intention to look at the processes and functions of DCFS in a methodical, chronological way," Morrison said.
The intact family services assist about 2,700 children statewide. It aims to offer counseling, resources and oversight to keep families together, instead of removing children from their homes and placing them in foster care.