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Springfield IL 62701-1498
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Governor Announces Major Improvement
in DCFS' Efforts to Find Missing Children:

New Child Location and Support Unit for Missing Children
proving successful in meeting Governor's priority

Eighty-six percent of children reported missing in May 2003
have been recovered

Chicago, IL -Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that 352 out of 409 children declared missing from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) system late last spring have since been found.

"When I appointed Bryan Samuels to head our state's troubled childwelfare agency, I made clear that one of the most disturbing problems that needed to be addressed within the Department of Children and Family Services was the abysmal record of tracking and recovering children missing from the system," Blagojevich said. "The results we're seeing now, six?months later, show that the job is getting done."

In February, 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 of the Task Force was that the department failed to work aggressively to track and locate all children missing from authorized placements.

On May 13, just two weeks after being tapped by Blagojevich to lead the agency through a period of critical reforms, Director Samuels convened the Illinois Task Force on Missing Children. The purpose of this task force was to create a statewide strategic plan to track and locate missing wards and review issues related to youths absent from care. At that time, DCFS records showed 409 children as missing. As of today, 86 percent (352) of the original 409 have been located. There are currently 366 children missing from approved placements statewide.

Contributing to the success of the agency's recovery efforts is its newly created Child Location and Support Unit for Missing Children. The Unit operates around-the-clock, 365 days a year, to augment the work of staff that have been spearheading department efforts to track and locate run-away DCFS wards.

"This unit is the result of the hard work and commitment of the department to making sure we bring our youth back into care as quickly as possible, and once they are back, to make sure they are in placements that effectively serve their needs," said Director Samuels.

The innovative Child Location and Support Unit for Missing Children was based on recommendations from both the Governor's DCFS Task Force and the Illinois Task Force on Missing Children. The unit has approximately 14 staff in Chicago and two in Springfield.

The Unit employs a computer tracking system unique to Illinois, which greatly speeds worker and law enforcement access to vital information about a missing ward. The DCFS missing children database provides detailed background information about all missing wards, regardless of whether they are served by DCFS or a private agency. Last month, the database was enhanced to provide instant access to photos of missing children, and it will soon link to Department of Public Aid databases that can provide medical information, including names of a missing ward's medical providers.

Staff are also better-equipped to find missing wards. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), in partnership with DCFS, provided training for staff in August to prepare them to swiftly investigate reports involving missing and abducted children. The NCMEC training sessions focused on child and family abduction, media relations, recovery techniques, sexual predators, investigative resources, on-line victimization and agency planning.

The formal opening of the unit followed the summer launch of the department's new 24-hour Missing Children Hotline, which is available nationwide. People with information about missing or abducted DCFS wards are encouraged to call the 24-hour hotline at 866-503-0184.

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