When are the People of Illinois Going to Demand Action on DCFS?

The adverse opinion issued last week by the Illinois Auditor General’s office of its compliance audit of the Department of Children and Family Services deals not only with certain financial irregularities within the agency, but it also shines a harsh light on the failure of this agency to protect the children within its care. DCFS exists for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect. The fact that the agency failed on so many levels, and then saw fit to hide its failures by providing material misstatements boggles the mind.

Since the audit’s release, we’ve heard nothing from the Governor, even though he had two press availabilities last week where he could have addressed the issue. I just spoke with a member of the Springfield press who told me that the Governor’s office was going to leave it to the Agency to respond.

Since the audit was released on September 26th, there’s only been one comment made by DCFS regarding the findings. Heather Tarczan, DCFS communications director, pointed out the audit took place amid COVID-19 when many state agencies were dealing with staffing issues. I would find that to be somewhat persuasive if it wasn’t for the fact that the issues raised in this audit go back long before COVID.

The Auditor General’s report discloses 33 separate findings, of which 17 were “Category One” findings which describe “material weakness in internal control” or “material non-compliance with state laws and regulations”. Of the 17 Category One violations shown in the audit, twelve of them were raised as far back as 1998. These failures aren’t due to COVID.

And what about Director Smith? Was he hired to fix this agency, or was he merely hired as a caretaker of  a dysfunctional agency that has failed so many kids? If he’s any kind of a leader, he should be marching into the Governor’s office and demanding that he be given complete authority to overhaul this agency. Neither he nor the Governor can be considered as profiles in political courage.

The governor is quick to point out that Republicans could be more supportive of his efforts if we would but vote in favor of his budgets. That’s a topic for another day, but let’s just say that if the administration were to propose its budget in piecemeal fashion (by appropriation committee) instead of as a single 3,000-page document, we might find things in there that we’d be willing to vote for, even though we had no say in what goes into it. But he’d rather have political talking points rather than a cooperative effort toward doing the work that the people of this state deserve.

Here is the link to my press conference this past week discussing this issue in detail: