This Week in Springfield:
This week, the Illinois House and Senate met in Springfield Tuesday through Thursday to begin considering legislation in committees. After the deadline passed last Friday, members of the Illinois House have filed 3,978 bills. My major focus is on bills which land in committees of which I’m a member.
In today’s hot topic of the week, I will give you a more in-depth look at the legislation I’ve filed to improve our child welfare system. Next week I will highlight bills I’m working on to reduce property taxes, improve our education system, and promote public safety.
As I have mentioned for the past couple of weeks, if there are issues that are important to you, or bills you would like me to sign on to as a co-sponsor, please let me know.
You can find a list of the current bills I have introduced here.
Happy National FFA Week
February 18th-25th is National FFA Week – a week to highlight and celebrate our future leaders and the value FFA has in our communities.
I would like to extend my thanks to our FFA Advisors, Ag teachers, and FFA alumni who work to provide this incredible learning experience for students.
It’s always a privilege to welcome FFA students and all of my constituents to their Capitol in Springfield. If you plan to visit Springfield, please let my office know. We can get you connected with a Capitol Tour, and provide you with recommendations on local historical sites, restaurants, and places to see.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Legislative Proposals on Improving Child Welfare
Improving our Child Welfare system is my top legislative priority. I have been named the Minority Spokesperson, or the top Republican, on the Adoption & Child Welfare Committee where we plan to hold hearings investigating our child welfare system, finding solutions, and considering legislative proposals.
I’ve put together a package of legislative initiatives to begin fixing our child welfare system, focusing the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) on its core mission of protecting children in its care.
Proposed Bills to Make Changes to our Child Welfare System:
- HB 2935: One of the biggest challenges DCFS faces is caseload management. Too many cases are falling through the cracks. This bill requires DCFS to establish and operate a caseload tracking system to monitor and evaluate the interrelationship between client case plans, the Department’s case tracking system, and the work responsibilities of the Department. This should help investigatorsdo their job more efficiently.
- HB 2937: Oversight, transparency, and accountability are essential. This bill requires DCFS to submit to the General Assemblyno later than March 1 of each year a report on the ongoing case files of the Department. This bill is intended to strengthen the enforcement of HB 2935 and not allow the agency to bury its statistics.
- HB 3618: We must use the programs we have that are working. The “Intact Family Services” program is designed to work with at-risk families who have been referred for continuing assistance and monitoring following a child abuse or neglect investigation with the DCFS. Currently however, participation in IFS is not mandatory unless it’s ordered by a court, and in too many cases there’s no voluntary compliance by families who need these services. This bill requires families to enroll in IFS rather than making it voluntary.
Proposed Bills to Clarify the Mission of DCFS:
- HB 3614: For too long, DCFS has suffered from what can be called “mission creep”, taking on responsibilities that aren’t within its core function of child welfare. This bill moves the responsibility of providing background checks for foster parents to the Illinois State Police. The Illinois State Police already run background checks for other state programs and are better qualified to provide this service.
- HB 3617: As another example of agency mission creep, DCFS is currently responsible for licensing things such as daycare centers. This bill provides for the transfer of responsibility for licensure from the DCFS to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Proposed Legislation to Highlight Necessary State and Federal Changes:
- HB 3615:The Family First Prevention Services Act was originally intended to provide federal funding for services to families which are in danger of spiraling into a situation where abuse or neglect of children might be the next step. Ideally, these would be the kind of services which would be made available to families prior to them becoming entangled in the DCFS system. However, with the way the federal policy is written, the program is administered by DCFS. In order for this program to work as intended, it should be administered by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. This change will require federal action, but I’m introducing this legislation to highlight the need for federal change. I spoke on this issue on the House floor earlier this week.
- HR 38: Finally, we will need many more changes than what I have outlined above. This resolution broadly explains the historic failures of DCFS, our obligation to make improvements and closes by saying that it is the position of the General Assembly that: “The time is long past for systemic changes to be made to the Department of Children and Family Services so that it can fulfill its mission to protect children and prevent the ongoing tragedy of child abuse and neglect that confronts us every year. We call upon the Governor and the executive branch as well as the Department of Children and Family Services to cooperate in every way that they can to assure that these changes will be made.”
If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on the necessary changes at DCFS, you can listen to remarks I have made on the House Floor recognizing local reformers, or in press conferences calling for statewide reforms.
The Week Ahead:
- Next week, the Illinois House is scheduled for legislative session Tuesday, February 28th through Thursday, March 2nd.
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