Rep. Frese along with other members of the Sustaining and Protecting At Risk Kids (S.P.A.R.K.) Working Group on Thursday announced new legislation introduced to protect children in the state’s care, and on the “radar” of the Department of Children and Family Services.
“Funding for DCFS continues to rise, and at the same time, so do tragic deaths of at-risk kids that have had previous contact with the agency. Clearly, money alone isn’t the answer. We need reforms and we need increased accountability,” said Rep. Frese (R-Paloma).
Rep. Frese and Working Group members noted that funding for DCFS was increased to $1.5 billion in the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget, while an Inspector General’s report released in January revealed a startling 40% increase in the deaths of children who had prior contact with DCFS. Reforms introduced by the S.P.A.R.K. Working Group include:
- House Bill 3471, which would allow local law enforcement to conduct their own abuse and neglect investigations and requires DCFS to share their investigation reports with local County State’s Attorneys;
- House Bill 3002, which creates an independent Ombudsperson to investigate complaints against DCFS, provide recommendations, and report to law enforcement when necessary;
- House Bill 2935, which requires DCFS to establish a caseload tracking system which will monitor and evaluate the interrelationship between case plans, the Department’s case tracking system, and work responsibilities;
- House Bill 3614, which provides that prior to final approval for placement of a child, DCFS will request that the Illinois State Police conduct a criminal records background check of the prospective foster or adoptive parents; and
- House Bill 3618, which requires DCFS to develop a plan to phase in mandatory intact family services for at-risk families who are in need of continuing assistance and monitoring following an abuse or neglect investigation.
“Protecting at-risk children isn’t a partisan issue, nor is it a regional issue. It is a concern in every one of the one hundred two counties in Illinois. I believe members of the General Assembly can find common ground and pass needed reforms that can literally be life-saving” Rep. Frese said.