Legislation on its way to the Governor will allow Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) workers more protection says State Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa), a sponsor of the legislation.
Senate Bill 1486 allows DCFS workers to carry mace or pepper spray for defensive purposes in the course of investigating abuse and neglect cases. Employees would be required to complete a short training program from the Illinois State Police on the proper use of pepper spray.
“In an ideal world, caseworkers would never have to use the pepper spray, but that ignores the reality of the important, but difficult and sometimes dangerous, work they’re doing,” Rep. Weber said.
In January of this year, Diedra Silas, a case worker with DCFS, was stabbed to death while performing a home visit. A few years previously, DCFS caseworker Pam Knight, was also brutally attacked while taking a child into DCFS custody, and later died from her injuries.
“Obviously we need to do a lot more at DCFS to protect both our frontline workers and our children, but this is a good step in the right direction,” Rep. Weber said. “I’m hopeful that this provides some peace of mind to caseworkers and. god forbid they need to use it, some protection.”
SB 1486 passed the Illinois Senate unanimously and the Illinois House on a bipartisan 100-4 vote, with 4 Democrats in opposition. It will next be sent to the Governor for his signature.