Critical Report Triggers Action Child Welfare Agency Will Change, Improve Methods, Official Says

Article excerpt

The state's child welfare agency says it's already working on some of the recommendations made in a report critical of its efforts to provide adequate education for the children in its care.

"The department is in general agreement with the study's recommendations," Jeff Buhrmann of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said in a telephone interview late Thursday.

Buhrmann said the agency already plans to follow the report's recommendation of establishing a task force of outside experts who could better train caseworkers in children's educational needs. He is administrator of the DCFS office of interagency coordination.

The report released Thursday by a federal court monitor accused the DCFS of failing to make education a prime concern for many of the 40,000 children in its care. Its author, Loyola University psychologist Joy J. Rogers, said she based her findings on a random sample of 55 case histories and interviews with experts from inside and outside the agency.

"With a very small number of exceptions, the wards of DCFS come from America's most disadvantaged underclass," Rogers wrote. "If they are to have any chance to break free of the cycle of poverty, that chance must come through the best possible education they can access."

Rogers said the DCFS case records system is antiquated and often delays the assignment of children to schools.

The psychologist also said the agency frequently wastes money and time by failing to take advantage of existing programs in local school systems. She also criticized the DCFS for moving children too often from home to home and from school to school, and for stressing the return of children to their natural parents over adoption into stable families. …