IllinoisDCFSState Sen. Julie Morrison, who has been actively working to reform Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services since 2013, welcomed Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to bring in the Annie E. Casey Foundation to perform a top-to-bottom audit of the troubled agency.

“Over the past year, it’s become apparent that the problems at DCFS are so deep-seated that we’re going to have to rebuild the agency from the ground up to ensure the safety of abused and neglected children,” said Morrison, who chairs a legislative committee tasked with investigating the agency. “I support the governor’s decision to bring in an outside agency to help us take stock of the situation and start turning things around.”

The Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization based in Baltimore that is committed to helping children in danger of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. It is known for its many child welfare programs, its grants to help children and its Kids Count data center.

The Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group has worked with agencies throughout the nation to help improve services for children while reining in costs for state and local governments. Governments that have worked with the foundation include New York City, Maine, Louisiana and Virginia.

The foundation’s strategy focuses on moving more children into family settings rather than group homes, placing as many children as possible with relatives, setting data-based qualitative standards and focusing on prevention rather than crisis intervention.

Illinois’ DCFS has come under fire for many reasons in recent years, including:

• A revolving-door of agency directors, including one who pled guilty to stealing money from a Chicago social-service agency.

• A sharp increase in child abuse- and neglect-related deaths, including at least one case where DCFS was already involved with the child victim.

• A system of residential treatment centers run amok, with children in DCFS care experiencing sexual abuse, assaults (sometimes from staff), and thousands of incidents of children running away or going missing.

Morrison has already introduced legislation, Senate Bill 13, to address the problems at treatment centers by requiring DCFS to revoke their licenses if they fail to correct known problems or report child abuse.

She plans to work with other legislators to introduce and pass more laws to reform DCFS and protect the state’s most vulnerable children.

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