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 SPRINGFIELD, IL, FEBRUARY 21, 2001 -- Governor George H. Ryan today proposed a $1.4 billion 2002 budget for the Department of Children and Family Services, including $35.5 million to continue to move 3,845 children from foster homes to permanent, loving homes. In fact, during Fiscal Year 2002, the Department will pass another important milestone when the number of children in substitute care will fall to less than half of what it was at the peak in May 1997.

In May 1997, there were 51,596 children in substitute care. By the end of Fiscal Year 2001, there will be just 24,130 children in out-of-home care -- a 53% reduction in just over four years. The state will then have fewer children in custody than at any point since January 1992. By contrast, there were only 11,539 children receiving adoption and guardianship subsidies at the end of Fiscal Year 1997; at the end of Fiscal Year 1001, there will be 41,415 -- a 258.9% increase. Illinois led the nation in the growth in the number of adoptions completed in 1998 and again in 1999 and it completed more adoptions than and other state in the three-year period between 1998 and 2000.

The state anticipates it will continue to be among the national leaders in the proportion of children in care moved to adoption again in Fiscal Year 2002.

"It is gratifying to see the changes that have taken place in the state's child welfare system," Governor Ryan said. "Not that many years ago, Illinois' child welfare system was viewed as a symbol of what was wrong with child welfare nationally. Because of its success in reducing the number of children in foster care and the fact the state is the largest child welfare agency to be accredited, Illinois is viewed as a model of how services can be improved for the state's most vulnerable children -- its abused and neglected children."

Illinois set the national standard for moving kids to adoption for three years, in addition to moving over 5,000 more children to loving, permanent homes through its innovative subsidized guardianship program. The number of children who are found to be abused again after DCFS involvement has declined, and fewer children are being brought into custody. The number of children bright into care for the first time in Fiscal Year 2000 was 60 percent lower than is was in Fiscal Year 1995. Instances of re-abuse have fallen by more than half. The Department continues to do a better job of assessing risks to children and determining when it is necessary to disrupt families to protect a child.

The Department's budget grew at double-digit percentage rates every year between Fiscal Year 1989 and Fiscal Year 1997. However, successful reforms have allowed the budget to remain level since then.

The Governor's General Revenue Fund appropriations request for DCFS represents no change from the Fiscal Year 2001 level. The Department's total budget will increase by only $6.7 million -- just 0.5%. The increase is a result of a $2.1 million increase in direct federally-funded programs and a $4.6 million increase in the children's Services Fund(CSF). CSF is comprised of deposits of federal reimbursements for services delivered.

"The positive changes in Illinois have been accomplished through a series of major reforms approved by the General Assembly and the work of many people in both the public and private sectors," said DCFS Director Jess McDonald.

Fiscal Year 2002 will also represent the seventh consecutive year DCFS has reduced the number of children placed in restrictive and expensive residential care placements.

As with the substitute care caseload overall, during Fiscal Year 2002 the Department's residential caseload will fall below half of when is was at its peak. By the end of this Fiscal Year, there will be fewer children placed in residential settings than at any time since Fiscal Year 1991. In addition, the number of children placed in residential settings outside of Illinois has already fallen by 93.9 percent to 48, from a high point of 792 in May 1995. Almost all of the children remaining in out-of-state facilities are either in contiguous states or in secured facilities that are not yet available in Illinois.

An additional $1,280,000 has been included to increase funding of Child Advocacy Centers(CACs). These 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.

"This budget will support maintenance of the Department's status as the nation's largest agency accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services," McDonald said.

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