Efforts to Increase Safe Reunification with Parents

FY97 & FY98 Permanency Analysis


FY97 FY98
% Based on EOY caseloads Downstate Regions Cook Regions Statewide Downstate Regions Cook Regions Statewide
Reunification 27.1% 6.2% 10.7% 22.8% 6.2% 9.8%
Adoption 8.3% 4.0% 4.9% 10.6% 8.9% 9.2%
Guardianship 0.1% 0.5% 0.4% 2.8% 2.8% 2.8%
Total Permanencies 35.5% 10.7% 16.1% 36.2% 17.9% 21.8%

*Note: FY97 –no performance contracting; FY98 performance contracting in Cook HMR cases only.

The Department’s success at limiting intake into the front-end of the system masked some noteworthy improvement in reunification efforts in FY98. The chances of reunifying a family decrease the longer a child is in custody. Thus, when intake declines the anticipated number of children reunified will decrease as well. In FY98, intake did decrease significantly from FY97. As a proportion of intake, reunification increased in FY98 from 44.9% to 52.2%.

FY97 & FY98 Reunification Analysis

FY97 FY98
Downstate Cook Statewide Downstate Cook Statewide
Intake 4,359 6,467 10,826 3,768 4,943 8,711
Reunifications 2,664 2,200 4,864 2,273 2,278 4,551
Reun. % of Intake 61.1% 34.0% 44.9% 60.3% 46.1% 52.2%

The Department believes there can still be an increase in the rate of children returned home downstate and Cook County reunification rates should approach those produced downstate. Although new intake is expected to be lower in FY99 and FY00 than it was in FY97, the Department anticipates 5,000 children will be reunified in FY99 and 5,250 in FY00. In addition, beginning in FY00, 20% of the federally funded, family centered services initiative will be devoted to time-limited reunification through Local Area Networks (LANS) and other community groups.

In the past, some private providers had reunification (aftercare) contracts to help pay for case management to assist families in the transition when children were returned but many did not. Many of the newer agencies that went into business as the Department’s caseload grew rapidly had little expertise in reunification services. There was nothing in contracts indicating achieving reunification was a goal agencies should strive for and some of the negative high publicity cases involved reunification. In addition, DCFS rules and payment policies made it difficult for agencies to access "hard services" for children and families once reunification took place. This made workers and the courts worry that families could not be adequately supported if they were reunified. All of these factors contributed to the steady erosion in reunification rates.

To address these problems, Cook County performance contracting provides private agencies with $1,000 per child to follow the case for at least six months to make sure the families situation is safe and stable. They can also access an average of $3,000 per child in services, which can last for up to a year to help stabilize the family. Plans are to be individualized so that care plans and the resulting costs are all different, depending on the needs of the child and family.

Downstate performance contracting payment systems have been based on a more traditional fee-for-service model. DCFS staff access services to facilitate reunification through traditional support services lines such as counseling, homemaker and children’s personal and physical maintenance (CPPM). There are some changes Downstate for FY2000 that began in January 1999. When reunification of families is a goal and when reunification is possible, safe, and in the best interests of the children, the Department has agreed with private agencies to provide and average of $3,000 per family for social services and $1,500 per family for basic necessities, e.g. beds, clothing, and utilities, to reunify a family outside Cook County and maintain that reunification for a period of six months to one year. Changes the Department has made are intended to greatly increase the funds available to reunify families but overall spending will actually decrease as reunification helps reduce caseloads.

Regarding the availability and utilization of specific services identified as Time-Limited Reunification Services under title IV-B of the Social Security Act:

1. Individual, Group and Family Counseling.

These services are available in all Department regions. The demand for these services is being met.

2. Inpatient, Residential or Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Services.

These services are available in all Department regions. The Illinois Department of Human Services spends over $21 million in providing substance abuse treatment services for DCFS clients. The Department provides all of the support services (#1 and #3 - #6) to these clients.

The Illinois Department of Human Services has increased the level of commitment several times to DCFS in providing substance abuse treatment services to its clients. The demand for services generally is being met at present except for residential services and residential services for mothers and their children. It is anticipated that the demand will increase due to the courts and the Department pressing families to seek earlier treatment services. It is anticipated that the State will budget to meet the increased demand for services.

3. Mental Health Services.

These services are available all Department regions. The services available are Therapeutic Services, Medicaid Counseling and referrals to Mental Health Clinics funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The demand for these services is currently being met.

4. Assistance to Address Domestic Violence.

The Illinois Department of Health and Human Services funds 18 Domestic Violence Shelters. These services are available in all regions of the Department. However, in sparsely populated places, people may have to travel to access such services.

The Department addresses domestic violence as an integral part of its Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP). One of the safety factors assessed in the CERAP is domestic violence. Child Protection Investigators and Child Welfare Workers, therefore, address the issues of domestic violence in developing and implementing the safety plan for children and may use the Domestic Violence Shelters as a resource. In addition, the Department can also use the Family Violence Coordinating Councils as a resource to address the domestic violence issues. Each judicial circuit should have a Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. These councils have protocols for identification of child abuse and battered women.

5. Services Designed to Provide Temporary Child Care and Therapeutic Services for Families Including Crisis Nurseries.

Except for crisis nurseries, these services are available in all Department regions. The Department provides Day Care/Child Care, Protective Day Care and Therapeutic services. However, there are only five crisis nurseries in the entire state. They are not available in all regions of the Department. The Department contributes funding for the operation of the five crisis nurseries that exist.

6. Transportation To and From Any of the Services and Activities Described Above.

These services are available in all Department regions and the demand for such services is currently being met.

In addition, there is LAN-based information on the availability and need for both time-limited reunification and adoption promotion and support services in the Family Centered Services Evaluation Report (Appendices).

Adoption Promotion and Support

Adoption/Guardianship Preservation Programs-- With the exception of FY98, spending for Adoption Preservation increased slowly but not in line with the increase in the caseload. With the tremendous increase in the number of children in adoption and guardianship in FY99 and FY00 a major response is needed. State resources will be increase by $1,500,000. In addition, beginning in FY00, 20% of the federally funded, family centered services initiative will be devoted to adoption preservation and support through Local Area Networks (LANS) and other community groups. These increases will allow the Department to respond in the following ways:

  • Respond to the increase in the adoption/guardianship caseload from 17,160 at the end of FY98 to 27,445 at the end of FY00.
  • Improve the quality of services provided statewide, as recommended by Illinois State University.
  • Get local area networks (LANs) more involved with adoption and guardianship preservation.

$500,000 of this increase is intended to help develop the service enhancements recommended by Illinois State University following their four year study of the effectiveness of adoption preservation services. These service changes include:

  • Allowing some families who may benefit from longer services to receive services beyond the current five month time limit.
  • Services to make adoptive parents more familiar with what they can generally expect in raising an adoptive child as well as more knowledgeable about the adoption preservation system.
  • Support groups and reach-out groups to provide emotional support to adoptive parents.

Adoption/Guardianship Staffing--For many years, when DCFS caseworkers and private agencies that did not have adoption contracts identified children who were ready to move to adoption, they transferred the case to specialized DCFS adoption workers to complete the process. This system had several flaws, including the following:

  • It concentrated all expertise in the adoption process in a select group of people.
  • It robbed regular caseworkers of participation in one of the most satisfying parts of child welfare.
  • It created an unnatural funnel through which too many children had to move.
  • Given the economics of DCFS casework (see performance contracting discussions), agencies and staff had a disincentive to help identify and prepare children for adoption.
  • Adoption workers had to continue all the usual casework—including ACR’s, court hearings, and facilitating visitation—which diminished the amount of time they had to spend on permanency tasks.

To address these problems, the Department implemented a new design for the staffing of adoption and guardianship functions in the three Cook regions. Instead of assuming full case responsibility for all children for whom adoption or guardianship is the goal, adoption/guardianship workers concentrate on adoption/guardianship assessment and decision-making functions. These include:

  • Earlier identification of children for whom adoption or guardianship may be appropriate.
  • Working with placement staff, the child and the foster or relative caretaker to explore adoption or guardianship.
  • Preparing the child and the adoptive family for such arrangements even before they become the child’s official permanency goal.

Since of the wards adopted or placed in guardianship, 85% remain in the homes with their foster parents, keeping case responsibility with a child’s placement worker provides continuity for the child. Under the Cook County performance contracting system (both HMR and regular Foster Care), the rate structure assumes that each team of seven workers has an adoption/guardianship worker attached to it.

Downstate, all foster care providers must also have an adoption contract that pays them when an adoptive placement is made and when an adoption is finalized.

A separate unit has been created in Cook County to handle the duties that remain with the Department. Those responsibilities include:

  • Approving all adoption and guardianship subsidies, and authorizing the consent and appearance of the guardian.
  • Expediting adoptions, including taking directed consents and surrenders
  • Monitoring POS adoption program development, including certification of agency adoption programs.

The Adoption Information Center of Illinois (AICI)/ Adoption Listing Service--DCFS and POS staff must refer all children to AICI within two weeks of the legal screening for inclusion with the Adoption Listing Service if an adoptive home has not been identified. Exceptions include the Regional Administrator signing off that it is not in the child’s best interest such as for mental health reasons. Adoption Listing Service circulates information on many children waiting for adoption to every Illinois adoption agency and to some agencies in contiguous states.

Post-Adoption Services involve therapeutic interventions designed to assist those adoptees experiencing emotional and/or behavioral disturbances caused by previous abuse or neglect or by the resurgence of these problems at one or more higher developmental stages. Given the serious trauma many adoptees have experienced, and the normal post-adoptive questions and issues, post-adoption services are offered in three varieties: post-adoption counseling and therapeutic interventions through the subsidy agreement with the adoptive parents, post-adoptive counseling and therapeutic services outside of the subsidy agreement, and Intensive Adoption Preservation services.


Units of Service for Family Centered Services & Family Preservation Services FY98 Actual FY99 Estimated FY00 Projected 99-00 Change 99-00 % Change
Family Centered Svcs. – Support –Children 11,470 12,400 9,424 -2,976 -24.0%
Family Centered. Svcs. –Preserv. – Families 2,852 3,100 2,356 -744 -24.0%
Family Preservation-Unique Clients Served* 6,599 6,600 6,600 0 0.0%
LAN-based Adoption Preservation Clients* 0 0 2,046 2,046 N/A

*This count includes intact families served plus all children served individually

Program Amount Program Amount Program Amount Total
Title IV-B II-PSSF $ 2,164.7 Title XX $ 5,866.2 State/Local/Don. $ 7,331.1 $ 15,362.0
Title IV-B II-PSSF Regional Breakouts Title XX Regional Breakouts State/Local/Don. Regional Breakouts Totals
Central $ 310.2 Central $ 840.6 Central $ 1,050.5 $ 2,201.4
Northern $ 320.7 Northern $ 869.1 Northern $ 1,086.1 $ 2,275.9
Southern $ 122.9 Southern $ 333.1 Southern $ 416.3 $ 872.3
Cook North $ 401.5 Cook North $ 1,088.1 Cook North $ 1,359.8 $ 2,849.3
Cook Central $ 474.4 Cook Central $ 1,285.5 Cook Central $ 1,606.6 $ 3,366.5
Cook South $ 535.0 Cook South $ 1,449.8 Cook South $ 1,811.8 $ 3,796.6
$ 2,164.7 $ 5,866.2 $ 7,331.1 $ 15,362.0
(2FY's thru 4/99)
New Adopts. Per Current Per 67/33 Per
Region & SG's Cent FY00 Alloc. Cent Cent Wgt.
Central 1081 10.47% 1513147 22.16% 14.33%
Northern 921 8.92% 1828560 26.78% 14.82%
Southern 466 4.52% 549000 8.04% 5.68%
Cook North 2279 22.08% 776500 11.37% 18.55%
Cook Central 2585 25.05% 1062000 15.55% 21.91%
Cook South 2988 28.95% 1100000 16.11% 24.71%
10320 100.00% 6829207 100.00% 100.00%
Doesn't include
Region 6A -- 59


The Department of Children and Family Services agrees to provide at least 20% in each of the four service categories for federal fiscal year 1999 funds.

Categories Dollars Percentage
Family Support $3,415,873 34%
Family Preservation $2,009,337 20%
Adoption Promotion/Support $2,009,337 20%
Time Limited Reunification $2,009,337 20%
Administration $401,867 4%
Evaluation $200,933 2%
Total $10,046,684 100%



    During Fiscal Years 2000 through 2004, the Applicant assures that it will conform with the Maintenance of Effort Requirement set forth in 45 CFR 1357.32 (f).

    The Applicant’s Continuum of Care Arrangement ensures that, on an annual basis, a significant portion of each mandatory service category is provided throughout the state to at- risk families.


    The levels of services and expenditures will continue to exceed the quantity established by the SFY92 baseline of $740,200 for Family Support and $13,019, 600 for Family Preservation. The SFY92 baseline levels for Family Support and Family Preservation services were previously discussed in the "SFY94 Plan To Plan" and subsequently approved in the "Illinois Five Year Plan for the Family Preservation and Family Support Initiative" for the period FY95 - FY99.

    The Applicant and LANs will not use any Title IV-B, Subpart 2 funds to supplant other sources of state and federal funds awarded for "Time-Limited Reunification" and "Adoption Promotion and Support Services." Audits of all service grants or contracts will be required to document the level and appropriateness of expenditures related to it. Maintenance of effort on the part of the LANs will be measured during assessment of the service grant. Maintenance of efforts at the state level will be documented in the state’s annual service and progress report.


    Effective 1/1/98, landmark legislation passed during the 1997 legislative session requiring the Applicant and Illinois courts to move children to permanency more quickly. Once health and safety are assured, permanency is the top priority. The Applicant now tries to look at time from the child’s perspective.

    A range of services and activities are being provided to the child and parent or primary caregivers of children removed from their own homes. The focus of these services is to facilitate reunification within a timely fashion; during the 15-month period following the date that a child is considered to have entered foster care.

    The SFY92 Baseline for Time-Limited Reunification has been established by retrofitting the definition and provisions set forth in section 475(5) (F) with comparable and equivalent expenditures and services. During SFY92, the Applicant’s total expenditure and service level for all family reunification work were $4.2 million for approximately 354 families. Further analysis revealed that the length of time children remained in substitute care were 30 months downstate and 60 months in Cook County. Along with other conceptual and programmatic factors, the SFY92 Baseline was calculated to be approximately 20% of the total. Consequently, the SFY92 Time-Limited Reunification baseline is $834,500 in expenditures for approximately 71 families.


The same legislative reform package which advocated safely returning children home, recognizes that when children cannot be reunified with their families, adoption is the permanency plan of choice.

Consequently, Illinois has substantially expanded and enhanced services and activities that encourage more adoptions out of the foster care system. Additional efforts and being implemented to promote the best interest of children by expanding pre- and post-adoptive services. These services expedite the adoption process and provide adoptive families with appropriate support.

The SFY92 Baseline for Adoption Promotion and Support Services was extracted from existing statewide adoption data reports and studies. The primary corresponding equivalent program from which this data was lifted consists of the Adoption Preservation line. During SFY92, the Applicant expended approximately $274,000 for Adoption Promotion and Support Services for nearly 100 families.