It Takes All Of Illinois Working Together To Keep Children Safe

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This is in response to the Oct. 8 editorial “Saving DCFS. Saving Kids. Honoring Joseph.

It has again proven true that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” So here is a quick history lesson. In 1994 when Gov. Jim Edgar asked me to be special counsel for Child Welfare Services, there were in excess of 52,000 children “in care” and moving them through the system and into permanent homes, in a timely manner, appeared all but impossible. Worst of all, the death of Joseph Wallace, fresh in our hearts, was a daily reminder that time was not on our side.

Our first step was to study the problem and prepare a report. One word defined our reform efforts: collaboration. Our study of the relationship between the Department of Children and Family Services and the juvenile court system revealed a complete misperception on the part of DCFS lawyers who thought their primary goal was to avoid adverse orders against their agency. That focus changed to assisting the court by, for example, seeing that caseworkers were at hearings and were prepared.

Led by a new DCFS general counsel and, coincidentally, a new presiding juvenile court judge, both of whom read our report and signed onto its recommendations, an era of close cooperation and innovative practices ensued. Abuse and neglect cases had often been dismissed at the first hearing because child protective workers’ testimony differed from that of police officers who often arrived at different times after witnesses’ stories had changed. Recognizing this, we piloted a program with the Chicago Police and DCFS Child Protection Division to provide cross-training and to have police and child protective workers respond to calls together.

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Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/letters/ct-letters-illinois-dcfs-police-20171012-story.html

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