CHICAGO (CBS) — Last week, a state audit into the Illinois Department of Children and Family services revealed massive dysfunction.
The department in charge of caring for the state’s most vulnerable kids is failing them on everything from regular medical visits to home checks to the way the department is staffed, the audit said.
CBS 2’s Chris Tye has covered the DCFS for years. On Tuesday, he reported there are some fresh calls for DCFS Director Marc Smith to step down.
Smith has now been held in contempt of court 10 times for the mismanagement of kids in his care. Those who have monitored the department for decades say this has never happened once before – let alone ten times in less than a year.
Lawmakers are saying the time for change is now.
“I am calling on director smith to resign or be removed from his position of DCFS immediately,” said state Rep. Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich)
Smith’s tenure at the top of DCFS is something CBS 2 pushed Gov. JB Pritzker on back in March – when Smith racked up his 8th contempt of court.
Tye asked Pritzker: “How many more times can the head of DCFS ne held in contempt until we do something more meaningful, change at the top? if we see you in a month, will it be time 12, 15.”
Pritzker replied, “You’re ignoring all the progress that’s been made at DCFS.”
But progress is not what last week’s report from the state auditor general reflects. It showed huge chunks of the state’s most vulnerable kids missing physicals, vision tests, and hearing screenings – and 88 percent missing at least one dental exam.
When the auditor asked for home safety checklists for kids returning home from foster care, the DCFS was unable to provide them in 98 percent of cases.
When the auditor looked for evidence kids in DCFS care are being properly immunized, the data were deemed “unreliable”.
Republican state lawmakers drawing a line in the sand.
“We have had all sorts of failures at DCFS over 30 years, but this is unprecedented to have this many contempt orders against a single agency,” said state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst)
These are problems with the department that have existed for decades, under both Democratic and Republican governors.
The department has been under a consent decree to monitor progress for 31 years.
Insiders tell us DCFS directors are usually moved in and out of the corner office so often that they can never gain traction. They suspect keeping Smith in place is an effort to stop that revolving door.