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DCFS honors foster and adoptive families at
annual DuQuoin State Fair picnic,
while strengthening it’s ability to find missing wards

DUQUOIN, IL (AUGUST 24, 2004) -- More than 1,200 foster and adoptive family members are expected to attend the Department of Children and Family Services' 19th Annual Foster and Adoptive Families Day at the DuQuoin State Fair.

The annual event, sponsored by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, DuQuoin State Fair Manager John Rednour Jr., the Marion Elks Lodge and DCFS, is held on Family Day, at the State Fair to honor the thousands of families throughout Southern Illinois who have become foster and adoptive parents. Activities will be held at the VIP Tent located at the Fairgrounds from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"This picnic has become an important tradition for area families who have opened their homes to abused and neglected children," said DCFS Director Bryan Samuels, noting that many area businesses, organizations and individuals have contributed to make the Aug. 28th event possible.

"We owe a debt of thanks to these loving families, and the DuQuoin State Fair is a wonderful place to watch the children enjoy the rides, the food and everything else that makes this a world-class fair," continued Director Samuels.

The picnic includes food, prizes and entertainment donated by a wide variety of local businesses, community organizations and individuals. Lunch will be served by the Marion Elks Club, which is also providing game prizes, attendance prizes and nearly half of the free ride armbands given to foster and adoptive youth.

Marion Pepsi will provide drinks, DuQuoin Ice will supply ice at a discounted rate, and the Anna, West Frankfort and DuQuoin McDonalds will provide cookies for lunch. The Party Shop of Herrin will provide balloons, which will be given by clowns from the Whittington Baptist Church. Egyptian Mental Health, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Catholic Social Services, and Baptist Children's Home also made various contributions. Many other individuals and groups have provided prizes and services, including 30 DCFS staff who will volunteer at the picnic.

A new photo area at the picnic will also serve a more vital purpose - capturing digital photos of visiting foster children as part of the Department's ongoing effort to ensure the safety of foster children throughout Illinois. On any given day between 300 and 400 children served by DCFS are listed as runaways or otherwise missing from their placements. Photographs of children stored in the DCFS missing children database help to speed the tracking and identification of missing wards.

"The DuQuoin State Fair offers a great opportunity to update our missing children database," said DCFS Director Samuels, noting that annual photographs are required for each of the 18,600 children in DCFS care. "Many of the families visit the picnic, and it only takes a minute to take a digital photograph that may someday help save a child's life."

Early in his administration, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich convened a DCFS Task Force charged with identifying the strengths and weaknesses with the Illinois child welfare system and offering recommendations for reforms. One major finding was that the Department had failed to work aggressively to track and locate all children missing from authorized placements.

During the past year, DCFS has established a Child Location and Support Unit for Missing Children and developed a computer tracking system unique to Illinois. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), in partnership with DCFS, also provided staff specialized training. Within months of these changes, 86 percent (352) of the original 409 children identified as missing by the Governor's Task Force had been found. While the daily list of missing wards varies, significant declines have continued over the past year.

"The State Fair picnic experience is a great way for DCFS to show its thanks to the families who have opened their homes to children who need their love and protection, as well as to recruit new foster and adoptive families," said Director Samuels. "This year, though, is special because technology is enabling us to take quick and easy step to make children in our care safer in the future."

People with information about missing or abducted DCFS wards are encouraged to call the 24-hour hotline at 866-503-0184. People interested in learning more about becoming foster or adoptive parents to call the Foster Care Hotline (800-624-KIDS) and the Adoption Hotline (800-572-2390).

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Jill Manuel
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services


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