DCFS came under fire this week, after an investigation led by WBEZ found that the agency has frequently relied on juvenile facilities in Cook County to provide temporary housing until the welfare agency manages to find suitable homes to place kids who are wards of the state.
The practice appears to violate the minors’ basic rights, denying them justice at a sensitive age. And it forces taxpayers statewide to pick up the tab for the bureaucracy and confusion. Unfortunately, under former Gov. Pat Quinn, scandals and mismanagement like this were all too common. Under new leadership from Gov. Rauner, Illinois can begin to expect better than a constant drumbeat of failures like this.
WBEZ reported that in a three-year period, they identified 344 cases in which a child was court ordered to be released into DCFS custody, only to spend a week or longer waiting in jail for home placement. As reported by WBEZ, DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach said that Gov. Rauner has made it a priority to bring stability to the agency by appointing new Director George Sheldon on Feb. 13 “to help turn the agency around.”
The media investigation revealed that Cook County is asking DCFS for reimbursement for costs associated with housing wards of the state, who the agency left waiting in juvenile facilities past their sentencing dates. Cook County has requested $232,750 to cover the cost of housing 41 DCFS wards over the span of two months, Dec. 2014 to Jan. 2015. Cook County demands reimbursement for what the County has spent to house kids that should be under the guardianship and responsibility of DCFS.
Per person, Cook County estimates that the cost of housing a juvenile to be more than $500 each day. In the case of the 344 instances found by WBEZ, this additional burden on state juvenile facilities adds up to be almost $4 million in expenditures.