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GOVERNOR'S BUDGET FOR CHILDREN & FAMILY SERVICES CONTINUES TO IMPROVE SAFETY
AND PERMANENCY FOR CHILDREN

FEBRUARY 17, 1999 -- Gov. George Ryan today proposed a $1.41 billion Fiscal Year 2000 budget for the Department of Children and Family Services. The budget includes a $45.9 million increase to fund the movement of a record 6,000 children from state custody to safe, caring and permanent homes through adoption and guardianship.

"The reforms undertaken by the Department of Children and Family Services have had a positive impact on the lives of abused and neglected children," Ryan said. "Increased services and funding are made available to safely reunify children with their families."

The number of children in the department's adoption and guardianship program is estimated to increase by 23% in fiscal year 2000, while the number of children in out-of-home placements (substitute care) will decrease by 9 percent. By the end of fiscal year 2000, the department expects to have responsibility for 39,030 wards - a reduction of nearly 25% from the peak of 51,599 children in March 1997.

The department's total budget will increase by just $13.1 million, less than 1 percent, due to lower carryover balances in the department's Children's Services Fund. The General Revenue Fund appropriations will increase by $31 million. The majority of the new funding will go to ward provider increases.

DCFS Director Jess McDonald pointed to federal and state permanency legislation passed in 1997, special efforts to promote permanency in the Cook County courts and the department's performance contracting initiative as changes that have been particularly important in the increased movement of children from state custody.

"The new child welfare laws mark our greatest effort in the effort to give every child a safe and permanent home," McDonald said.

An important factor in the increased movement of children out of state custody is the subsidized guardianship program. In 1996, the state received one of 10 federal waivers of Title IV-E reimbursement rules. Each waver allows a state to offer subsidies in cases where an individual or family takes guardianship of a child but does not legally adopt. By the end of fiscal year 2000, 3,535 children will be in guardianship under this program. It is likely that all of these children would still be in state care without alternatives, since subsidized guardianship is an option only after both return home and adoption has been ruled out.

Since the end of fiscal year 1995, the department has increased efforts to make sure that children are placed in residential settings only when that treatment level is necessary. By the end of fiscal year 2000, there will be approximately 2,580 children in residential placements, a 45% reduction since the end of fiscal year 1995. Very few of these children are now placed in out-of-state settings thanks to a successful public-private partnership to provide in-state services. The number of children in out-of-state residential placements is expected to drop to 150 on June 30, 1999 - from a high of 792 in May 1995.

Over $600,000 has been added to the existing $783,400 in state funding for Child Advocacy Centers. These county-based centers coordinate the activities of various agencies involved in the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child sexual abuse cases and serious child physical abuse cases. The department considers Child Advocacy Centers to be an important part of its effort to improve decision making and early treatment for some of its most serious cases.

This budget supports the department's continuing effort to improve the quality of the services it delivers. An increase of $500,000 is added to treat children who are victims of sexual abuse. Intensive treatment will be provided to victims of sexual abuse, in an effort to prevent them from becoming perpetrators. Funding that provides one-time support to families who are at risk of losing their children due to poverty, or where poverty is the only remaining barrier to reunification, will be increased by 11% or $351,100. In addition, the department continues to work toward statewide accreditation of its offices by the Council on Accreditation of Services to Children and Families. So far, 25 of 65 field sites and all of the central office functions have been accredited.

DCFS provides protection, family maintenance and substitute care services to abused and neglected children and their families. When children cannot be returned home safely in a reasonable amount of time, the department pursues adoption or guardianship as an alternative permanent family.

Through licensing of day care homes and centers, foster homes, child welfare agencies, child welfare institutions and group homes, the agency establishes standards and monitors the level of health and safety in these settings.

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