State Representative Tom Weber (R-Fox Lake) is surprised and disappointed by the recent announcement from Governor Pritzker and the Department of Children and Family Services’ of a Family First Summit. Representative Weber is a member of multiple legislative child welfare working groups and task forces.
“The lack of transparency from the Governor and DCFR Director Marc Smith and their noticeable exclusion of the General Assembly is alarming to say the least. I have been advocating for children in Illinois and changes to DCFS for years, yet this summit comes as a complete surprise to me and many others,” Rep. Weber said. “As far as I can tell no legislators were even made aware of this summit, let alone invited. This is despite the fact that there are several active bipartisan legislative groups working on addressing the problems and policy failures at DCFS and protecting our state’s children.”
Yesterday, Governor Pritzker, DCFS, and a national group based in Seattle announced that an inaugural Family First Act Summit, ‘Strengthening Illinois through Child and Family Well-Being’, was taking place in Champaign, Illinois. In their release, DCFS Director Marc Smith called the summit an important step in the collaborative effort to support families in order to keep children at home and out of foster care.
“I am not sure we want the same agency that failed to conduct home safety checks as required by law in 98% of cases reviewed by the Auditor General to be taking the lead on efforts to keep endangered children safely at home, at least not without accountability and legislative scrutiny.” According to the Illinois Auditor General report released on May 12th earlier this year, DCFS, in addition to failing to perform home safety checklists, did not ensure that children and families were receiving the recommended aftercare services in 58% of cases, and a significant number of children were not receiving their well-child visits/checkups as required by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Public Health’s administrative rules, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services handbook for providers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, as well as DCFS’ own procedures.
“The goal is always to keep families together, however in circumstances where it is not safe for a child, DCFS under Marc Smith has failed to differentiate what is best time and time again. In Illinois we have cases upon cases of children being unnecessarily taken from homes due to financial insecurity, and children kept in chronically unsafe homes, with DCFS inaction in several cases leading to tragic and preventable deaths.”
In their release announcing the summit, Governor Pritzker said stakeholders were brought together for “a transformative conversation to leverage resources available through the Family First Act.” “Governor Pritzker needs to be reminded that no resources can be allocated without the General Assembly’s approval, making it even more incredulous that legislators have been kept out of the loop on this,” Rep. Weber continued.
“The General Assembly makes the laws and allocates the budget, yet time and time again when problems arise the Pritzker administration refuses to answer questions and legislators are cut out of the process. DCFS has received significant additional funding in the past four years with very little accountability and even less to show for it. Now, we have a supposedly transformative summit of unknown stakeholders taking place and the General Assembly kept in the dark. The General Assembly and the public have zero idea who is taking part in this summit or what is being discussed. The time for trusting DCFS to handle these issues without legislative oversight has long past.”