Illinois General Assembly - Full Text of HR0824
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Full Text of HR0824  102nd General Assembly




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2    WHEREAS, The Illinois Department of Children and Family
3Services (DCFS) was established on January 1, 1964 as the
4nation's first cabinet-level state child welfare agency; until
5that time, the State's child welfare responsibilities were
6housed in the Department of Mental Health; approximately 4,000
7children were served during the department's first year of
8operation, compared to a peak of 51,000 children in foster
9care in 1997 and the 15,000 children it serves today; and
10    WHEREAS, Illinois is home to the nation's first juvenile
11court, counts itself as the birthplace of social work, was
12among one of the first states to establish child protection
13laws, was an early signatory to laws mandating the reporting
14of child abuse and neglect, and created one of the nation's
15first statewide child abuse hotlines; and
16    WHEREAS, The mission of Illinois' DCFS is to protect
17children who are reported to be abused or neglected and to
18increase their families' capacity to safely care for them; and
19    WHEREAS, On February 11, 2019, police found two year old
20Ta'Naja Barnes unresponsive and wrapped in a urine-soaked
21blanket inside her home; medical staff said her core
22temperature was so low that it would not register on their



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1device; she later died at a Decatur hospital; an autopsy
2revealed she died from dehydration, malnourishment, and
3neglect despite the involvement of DCFS during her short life;
5    WHEREAS, On April 24, 2019, authorities found Andrew "AJ"
6Freund wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave near Woodstock;
7DCFS had received at least 10 prior hotline calls concerning
8the care of children by his parents dated before he was even
9born; in addition to the hotline calls, five years' worth of
10police reports exist that paint a picture of unsanitary and
11unsafe conditions that include animal feces, lack of
12electricity, and alleged drug use; an autopsy concluded that
13the he died from injuries to his skull and brain due to
14multiple blunt-force injuries; and
15    WHEREAS, On March 29, 2022, yet another child, eight year
16old Navin Jones, died despite extensive involvement by DCFS in
17his life; while the child's grandmother was his legal
18guardian, both his older brother and he were residing with
19their parents throughout February and March; records show that
20DCFS was facilitating a transfer of guardianship for him in
21the weeks before he was found unresponsive; the Peoria County
22Coroner ruled the death a homicide, and police reports said
23the child was extremely malnourished with a skeletal
24appearance; further, authorities said he had numerous bruises,



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1scrapes, abrasions, and scars spread across his body; he also
2had what appeared to be ligature injuries to both wrists; at
3the time of his death, he weighed just 38 pounds at eight years
4of age; and
5    WHEREAS, The previously detailed deaths span several years
6but are eerily similar in detail and have one common
7denominator, which is the involvement and failure of DCFS; and
8    WHEREAS, DCFS is responsible for the safety of our State's
9most vulnerable; additionally, the agency is responsible for
10the well-being of children in care and is tasked with
11providing appropriate and permanent placement for children who
12cannot safely return home; and
13    WHEREAS, Over the last year, more than 350 children in
14DCFS care were languishing in psychiatric hospitals for an
15average of 55 days because DCFS failed to identify appropriate
16placement options; and
17    WHEREAS, DCFS Director Marc Smith has been held in
18contempt for failure to properly place DCFS youth eight times
19in eleven weeks in 2022 alone; and
20    WHEREAS, Youths in psychiatric facilities can go outside
21for approximately one hour per day, do not receive schooling,



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1and have limited contact with family and friends; and
2    WHEREAS, Holding the director of a State agency in
3contempt of court is extraordinarily rare; and
4    WHEREAS, The court has levied a $1,000 fine per day for
5each case where Director Smith has been found in contempt; and
6    WHEREAS, Psychiatric hospitals and emergency shelters are
7much more expensive than other placements and are not eligible
8for federal reimbursement; therefore, be it
11the Auditor General is directed to conduct a performance audit
12of the Department of Children and Family Services' response to
13the tragic deaths of any and all children who have died as a
14result of the agency's failure to live up to its own mission
15statement as well as the Department's actions to identify
16appropriate placement options and avoid further contempt
17citations; and be it further
18    RESOLVED, That this performance audit include, but not be
19limited to, the following determinations:
20        (1) The nature of changes made by the Department in
21    operating protocols and staff training thereon, intended



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1    to prevent further deaths of DCFS-involved youth, better
2    serve the best interests of system-involved youth, and
3    prevent any unnecessary stays in psychiatric facilities
4    and temporary shelters;
5        (2) The nature and extent of monitoring conducted by
6    the Department to determine whether the improvements,
7    safeguards, and protocols in place are effective to ensure
8    the safety of children in care;
9        (3) The amount of State moneys received and the amount
10    of State moneys expended by DCFS or any other State agency
11    during State fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to address
12    preventable deaths and unwarranted stays in psychiatric
13    facilities and temporary shelters;
14        (4) The efforts of DCFS to come into compliance with
15    court orders holding Director Marc Smith in contempt and
16    why DCFS continues to repeatedly be held in contempt on
17    additional cases and fails to properly place these youths;
18    and
19        (5) The amount of funds spent defending lawsuits and
20    legal matters and coming into court-mandated compliance
21    over issues with failing to properly place DCFS youths;
22    and be it further
23    RESOLVED, That the Illinois Department of Children and
24Family Services and any other State agency or other entity or
25person that may have information relevant to this audit



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1cooperate fully and promptly with the Auditor General's
2Office; and be it further
3    RESOLVED, That the Auditor General is best equipped to
4conduct an investigation given their understanding of the
5policies and procedures associated with the Department of
6Children and Family Services; and be it further
7    RESOLVED, That the Auditor General commence this audit as
8soon as practical and report its findings and recommendations
9upon completion in accordance with the provisions of Section
103-14 of the Illinois State Auditing Act; and be it further
11    RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be
12delivered to the Auditor General.