Child Welfare Agency Criticized Private Study Says That Local Networks Might Serve Families Better
Ap, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Researchers suggested Thursday that yet another fundamental change is needed at the state's child welfare agency, which already is struggling to meet the broad demands of a court-ordered reform.
This time, critics have suggested that most cases now served by the Illinois Department of Children and Services could be shifted to networks of local care and service providers.
By lumping the most severe risks for abuse and neglect with families who need much less attention, the agency has spread itself too thin and is unable to provide the services that many children and families need, the researchers said.
Local networks might offer faster and better assistance to families that have problems but are not at immediate risk of abuse or neglect, the researchers found. The study was conducted by researchers at Chapin Hall Center for Children, an independent research center at the University of Chicago.
Researchers cautioned that severing such cases from the Family Services Department was not a quick fix.
"We have to try it small," said Harold Richman, director of Chapin Hall. "You have to build the community capacity and work with private and public agencies to allow that capacity to function."
The report provided no detail on costs for its suggestions and said only that funding should be split between the state and local organizations.
Child welfare experts said the recommendations had merit but needed to be analyzed.
"What we are doing now is so misguided that we have to find some alternatives and make a commitment to do things differently," said Benjamin Wolf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. He was instrumental in working out a federal consent decree for reforming the child welfare agency. …