DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES
AND FAMILY SERVICES PLAN
steps need to be taken to ensure that the educational needs of wards
are met while in Department care?
learn best when provided with a safe, stable, nurturing school environment
where they receive help and guidance from caring adults. In the overwhelming
majority of cases, this has not been the experience of most children
who come into the care of the Department. These children and youth
have faced enormous educational challenges which may be rooted in
their experience of abuse or neglect and exacerbated by multiple relocations
after entering foster care. They fall behind in their schoolwork,
miss valuable days or weeks of school, and fail to build relationships
with their teachers and peers.
a childs placement requires a change in school districts, the
perception of him or her as only a temporary student can make it impractical
for adults to get involved and to advocate for appropriate educational
services. As a result, many children and youth have not received the
educational services for which they are eligible. Young children who
are at-risk of academic failure have not received preschool services
and school-aged children who would be eligible for special education
services are under-represented. When legally mandated parent surrogates
are appointed to advocate for children and youth who are eligible
for these services, they often are not adequately prepared to do so.
of the Departments work in the area of education has its roots
in recommendations made by the DCFS Education Task Force, a panel
of individuals charged with determining what attitudes, knowledge,
and skills were needed by caseworkers and caregivers to allow them
to be effective educational advocates for the children in their care.
As the Task Force began its work, the dire educational circumstances
of these children became increasingly evident. Their final report,
issued in November 1995, provided a framework for systemic change.
AND FUTURE STEPS
for whom the Department is responsible are expected to be enrolled
in school or training programs until they graduate or reach age eighteen.
The Departments Education Initiatives emphasize early identification
of problems which will impact a childs future success in school.
We believe that early investment of resources will improve future
outcomes. From early childhood through the high school years, the
attention of caseworkers and caregivers to educational progress is
the Departments educational priorities is improving the placement
stability of children and youth in care. Beginning in FY98, the Department
established performance contracting criteria related to placement
stability for all relative foster care contracts in Cook, challenging
substitute care providers to reduce "step-up" moves and
transfers between private agencies or between private agencies and
DCFS substantially. In the first year, the targeted move patterns
were reduced by one-half. During the second year, the Department reduced
moves by one-half again. This aggressive approach to establishing
stability for children is expected to have a dramatic impact on the
success of children in school.
Department has a comprehensive system of technical assistance and
support in place designed to improve educational outcomes for children
of all ages.
April 1998, approximately 600 infants and toddlers have been screened
and placed in services as appropriate through the DCFS Developmental
Screening Center, a collaborative project between DCFS and the Cook
County Bureau of Health Services. Over the next two years, it is
anticipated that an additional 3,500 in Cook County will be screened.
the last year and a half, through a collaboration between DCFS and
the Chicago Public Schools, over 2,000 children aged 3-5 have been
screened and referred to services which include HeadStart, State
Pre-K, and Pre-K Special Education programs. An additional 1,162
pre-school aged children have received developmental screen through
collaborative projects with the Chicago Public school CHILDFIND
initiative, and each child is tracked to enrollment by DCFS Early
April 1998, 1,845 infants and toddlers have participated in the
DCFS Birth to Three Services Project, receiving developmental screens
at one of the Departments four developmental screening centers.
Of those seen, 54% exhibit some form of developmental delay, and
each is tracked to enrollment in services to which they are referred
by Project staff. Beginning in November 1998, each new case of an
infant being brought into care received this service as a part of
their comprehensive assessment, thereby integrating developmental
needs into the initial stages of the case planning process. Project
staff track each case to enrollment in a customized package of Early
Childhood services designed to promote school readiness and stabilize
placements. Over the next year, Project staff will propose a downstate
Departments day care policies are currently undergoing final
revisions to ensure that day care is viewed not only as a benefit
to working foster parents but also as an important child development
service. Through collaboration with DHS and Chicago Public Schools,
priority status for day care placements is being given to many
DCFS infants and preschoolers who are at risk for future academic
failure. DCFS has budgeted $1.5 million to support this agreement.
Another collaboration with the Cook County Child Care Resource
and Referral Network, working foster parents who are caring for
children determined to be educationally at risk will receive a
specialized list of referrals to high quality day care options.
DCFS Educational Access Project with Northern Illinois University
has resulted in significant educational gains which benefit children
and youth in the Departments care. Through this project,
DCFS has established a venue for technical assistance related
to educational issues.
Participation from Caseworkers and Caregivers is one of the Departments
highest priorities related to education. The individuals closest
to our children must be the strongest advocates for their needs.
Caseworkers are required to visit the schools of their children
four times a year and actively participate in educational planning.
Future Success Training", focusing on staff responsibilities
related to education and transition, was recently provided to
all DCFS and private agency caseworkers, supervisors, administrative
case reviewers, LAN Liaisons, and specific managerial staff statewide.
Court, Chicago Public School, and DCFS Collaboration. As a result
of this collaboration all Chicago Public Schools, principals,
social workers, and counselors have received training on DCFSs
education procedures, DCFS investigatory and child welfare functions.
system of Education Advisors, funded by DCFS and administered
by NIU, provides ongoing support for staff and foster parents.
During the summer of 1998, the Department invested an additional
$1.3 million for Fiscal Year 1999 in private agency Home of Relative
and Traditional Foster Care contracts to fund Educational Liaisons
to provide additional educational support for their foster parents
and children. In addition, the Department also pays for legal
representation as necessary to support the educational needs of
children and youth in care.
in School Disruptions result in better academic performance. Collaborative
relationships have been established with Chicago Public Schools,
One Church One Child, and the Chicago Public Schools Interfaith
Partnership to recruit foster and adoptive homes in areas of greatest
need. This Initiative is designed to promote better educational
outcomes for children and youth in foster care by increasing the
number of foster homes within a childs home school district.
Involvement in Local Area Networks. LANs and the Chicago Public
Schools created their own LAN model which includes two full-time
LAN Coordinators and 13 school social workers who serve as representatives
to the LANs. These representatives train school personnel on the
WRAP process and planning assistance to ensure that children and
youth receive WRAP services within their own school prior to community
referrals. As a result of this initiative there has been a significant
number of WRAP Plans for wards and non-wards initiated for the
local schools. In addition, the educational component of WRAP
Plans now include services from the Chicago Public Schools.
between DCFS Cook County Educational Staff and Chicago Public
Schools Crisis Intervention Teams. As a result of these
collaborative efforts, planning regarding clinical needs and resources
(including funeral and burial) have been provided around traumatic
incidents such as rape, aggravated assault, and death that occur
at or around schools.
Cook County Educational Staff has developed a newsletter, CAPS
Strive, which is a newsletter targeted toward educational liaisons
in order to inform them about current resources available on all
aspects of education.
DCFS Truancy Initiative targets youth enrolled in Chicago Public
Schools who are chronically absent or truant from school. On a
monthly basis, CPS provides DCFS with data of students under DCFS
care who have been identified as truant. This information is sent
to the youths caseworker so that problem-solving can occur
between the caseworker, school, foster parents, and child to re-enroll
and stabilize the youth in school. In addition, a truancy protocol
has been developed whereby DCFS workers can contact CPS Regional
Truancy Staff when school-based efforts have been unsuccessful.
to school enrollment and stabilization statewide are tracked by
DCFS Education Advisors and private agency Education Liaisons.
Department is working with the Chicago Public Schools and the
Alternative Schools Network to ensure that Alternative Education
Options are available to meet the diverse needs of those DCFS
wards who are at high risk of academic failure.
and the Chicago Public Schools have developed a protocol which
ensures that appropriate educational services are provided to
those children and youth who are "stepping down" from
residential facilities and group homes into foster care placements
in Chicago. Similar procedures are being developed statewide with
school districts and the Illinois State Board of Education.
referral for tutoring is now required for youth whose grades have
fallen below a C average.
High School Diploma is the preferred certificate of secondary
completion. DCFS wards may be enrolled in a GED program only if
they are ineligible to be enrolled in the public school district.
attendance is encouraged by routine payment of preparatory education
expenses, including college books and school fees, tuition for
trade schools, required special class supplies, graduation expenses,
ACT/SAT examination fees, college application fees, deposits for
college room and board expenses. In addition, 48 scholarships
are available to current and former DCFS wards each year.
and Career Planning are required for all adolescents in DCFS care.
At least by the freshman year in high school, formalized planning,
high school credits, and relevant job preparation must be included
in the youths service plan. In the case of youth who are
receiving special education services, school districts are legally
required to develop their own transition plans which lead to post-secondary
employment or continuing education beginning at age 14 ½.
RANGE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
this point, the Departments efforts have been process oriented.
Weve been focusing on defining policy, setting up service delivery
strategies, and training staff and caregivers regarding the importance
of educational success. Outside of this effort, our goals are not
well defined or operationalized. In very broad terms, our goals could
be described as follows:
of the most difficult aspects of ensuring that our childrens
educational needs are met is that of determining where the responsibilities
of the Department end and the schools begin. This has been the
subject of much discussion over the past year.