10, 2004) - The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
today hosted a symposium to mark 40 years of service to children and families
across the state. Director Bryan Samuels was joined by former Directors,
child welfare policy experts and advocates to reflect on the agency's
past and to address opportunities and challenges that exist today.
we take this opportunity to celebrate the progression of child welfare
in Illinois, many of us recognize that the next phase of change is only
just beginning," said Director Samuels. "History and research
has shown us that we must move beyond keeping our children safe. We now
need to focus on a lifetime approach of support that includes finding
them stable homes and equipping them with the education and job readiness
skills that will serve them effectively as adults."
was held today at the Chicago Marriott Downtown and included plenary sessions
titled, "Shifting Focus - From Safety to Permanence to Well Being",
"Best Interests of the Child - Changing Definitions", and "Communities
of Care." Some of the panelists included Dr. Carl Bell, Community
Mental Health Council; Patricia Martin Bishop, Circuit Court of Cook County;
and Benjamin Wolf, ACLU of Illinois. The keynote luncheon speaker was
Carol Williams Spigner, D.S.W., University of Pennsylvania, PA and former
Associate Commissioner, Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
DCFS' history is steeped in a long tradition of service and innovation
for the state's most vulnerable children. Illinois is home to the nation's
first juvenile court, counts itself as the birthplace of social work (Jane
Addams' Hull House), was among the first states to establish child protection
laws, was an early signatory to laws mandating the reporting of child
abuse and neglect, and created one of the nation's first statewide child
the state's child welfare responsibilities were housed in the Department
of mental health. Limited services and placement programs for children
were provided by
several state agencies, private agencies and county courts. Approximately
were served during the Department's first year of operation compared to
a peak of 51,000 children in care in 1997.
In the past
40 years, DCFS has worked with private and public sector partners toward
the creation of a series of successful initiatives that have served as
a model for child welfare agencies throughout the United States including
the development of a unique subsidized guardianship program and the unprecedented
placement of more than 42,000 foster children into permanent homes since
has also led the nation in building new partnerships including the One
Church One Child adoption program and the Corporate Partnership for Recruitment
of Adoptive Families initiative. Additional accomplishments include the
development of a unique risk assessment tool and the creation of a computer
tracking system for missing youth.
the largest child welfare agency to earn accreditation from the Council
on Accreditation for Children and Family Services. From annual investigations
involving more than 98,500 children to the care of nearly 19,000 youth
to the licensing of day care facilities that serve more than 270,000 children.
The Department has a staff of 3,600 who are dedicated to providing unrivaled
professional service at all levels.
Building on the foundation laid by his predecessors, Samuels has instituted
a series of reforms to implement a lifetime approach to child welfare.
Each of these reforms is designed to improve the development, well-being
and life outcomes of children in state care. The Integrated Assessment
ensures that the system has a broad understanding of a child's needs;
re-designed transitional living and independent living programs proactively
assist older youth in progressing toward self-sufficiency; and the new
Education Passport and other academic initiatives are intended to improve
the educational outcomes of foster children.
gratitude for the years of DCFS service represented and the distinguished
careers of the former administrators and symposium participants, Samuels
said, "We'd like to thank the former directors, presenters, panelists,
sponsors and other participants for making this historic occasion possible.
Only through our collective knowledge, resources and commitment can DCFS
be successful in influencing positive outcomes for our state's children
and their families as we continue our work.
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Illinois Department of Children and Family Services