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DCFS announces new policy that limits the number of unrelated children placed in foster homes

Chicago (February 11, 2004)-As part of comprehensive efforts to provide the highest quality of care to the foster children of Illinois, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) announced today that effective immediately, no more than three unrelated children would be placed in licensed foster homes.

"Every child in the DCFS system matters and this move shows our continued commitment to providing these children with placements that best suit their needs," said DCFS Director Bryan Samuels. "By limiting the number of unrelated foster children placed in homes, we are customizing and refining the system to better care for children. And because DCFS is caring for the lowest number of youths in 14 years, we can concentrate on the quality of care, not the quantity."

Less than one percent of the 17,000 children currently in Illinois foster care live in homes with four or more unrelated children (see attached charts). Almost 60% of licensed foster homes have only one child placed there. Foster homes currently with more than three children will not be affected by this new policy, which supports other DCFS initiatives, such as the Integrated Assessment Program (IAP), designed to optimize successful foster care placements.

"The key to matching a child with the right caregiver is to make sure we've got as much up-front information about that child as possible, " said Director Samuels. "The Integrated Assessment Program will allow us to look at the wide range of needs of a child and make sure he or she goes to a place where those needs will be met. The IAP information will also allow a more comprehensive service plan to be developed for each child. And because we will be doing a better job of up-front assessment, you'll see less wards experiencing multiple placements."

DCFS expected Integrated Assessment Program to begin operating statewide by July 2004. The clinically based IAP will provide a complete mental, physical, social and educational needs assessment of each child who enters the foster care system. Independent mental health experts affiliated with academic institutions will be performing these assessments.
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The IAP will also be used to evaluate children currently in the Illinois child welfare system, such as chronic runaways, in order to create individualized programs that best suit their needs.

The move toward providing high quality services to children in the DCFS system is possible because Illinois is in a unique position to do so. Currently, there are 19,500 children in substitute care, the lowest number in 14 years and down from the historical high of over 51,000 in 1997. One key reason for this low number is because record numbers of youths who entered the DCFS system found permanent homes through family reunification, adoption and guardianship.

See table of Distribution of Placements into Foster Homes by Number of Total Children, Non-related Children and Siblings in the Home on Date of Placement.



Jill Manuel
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

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