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DCFS Director Bryan Samuels describes a new partnership with Bloomington-based Family and Community Resource Center, while the Center's director, Pastor Frank L. McSwain, prepares to address the media.

DCFS announces partnership with new Bloomington agency to improve access to child welfare services and enhance community relations

Bloomington, IL (July 15, 2004) - As part of its statewide effort to more effectively respond to the child welfare needs of communities, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is partnering with a new Bloomington-based agency that will serve as a link between McLean County residents and services offered by DCFS and local provider agencies.

The Family and Community Resource Center (FCRC) will open its doors in August and operate under the direction of Frank L. McSwain, a longtime family advocate and local pastor of one of the largest faith-based congregations in the Bloomington/Normal area.

"With fewer children in the DCFS system, we are now able to focus greater attention on the quality of care," said DCFS Director Bryan Samuels, noting a philosophical departure from the past when the agency grappled to meet the needs of a foster care population more than twice the size of today. "We will do this by partnering with community-based groups that work directly with children and families. We are very pleased that Reverend McSwain, who has strong ties to this community, has agreed to lend us his good name and reputation, as well as his counseling and leadership."

The department's relationship with FCRC is expected to help lower domestic violence cases affecting children, as well as increase the supply of licensed foster and adoptive families in McLean County area. The center's family support specialists will also help residents understand the legal processes involved in family-related court cases.

"It stands to reason that if more people become educated about the laws affecting children and families, the result would be fewer violations and fewer names on court dockets, and that's what we'd ultimately like to see," said Circuit Court Judge Ronald Dozier. "Agencies like the FCRC can really make a difference in the lives of families in this area."

Although less than 10 percent of McLean County's population is African-American, approximately 43 percent of youth in substitute care are African-American. Rev. McSwain said some of the center's key objectives will be to increase the comfort level for families who may consider adoption or foster care.

"First and foremost, we would like to see children stay with their biological families, as long as there are no safety issues. However, in the event that children must be removed from the home, we would like to see them go into environments where they will experience the least number of challenges and complications. This would also help them maintain a sense of normalcy and to make a smoother transition back into their own homes," said McSwain. "We believe through education and counseling, fewer children will be removed from their biological homes, and more foster and adoptive families will become certified."

Director Samuels said that the department's change in the direction and types of programs offered is a direct result of feedback the agency has received from the community. "In the past," noted Samuels, "DCFS responded to residents by funding efforts resulting in a provision of holistic services primarily focused on mental health with an advocacy component. While we have a great appreciation for those efforts, we realize that the need for these services has diminished. This allows us to not only reduce our overall costs, but to also better utilize the services available through providers such as Catholic Charities, The Baby Fold and The Children's Foundation-agencies that are well-established here in Bloomington and quite capable of assisting us."

McSwain pastors the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, a multi-million dollar facility located at 801 West Market Street. He and the church's board of directors have agreed to lease the church's ground floor offices to the FCRC in order to make child welfare services more easily accessible to families who need them most. The center will officially open its doors on August 1st.

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Jill Manuel
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services


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