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Chicago, June 18, 1999 -- The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services announced today that 15 more field offices – four of them in the Chicago area -- have become fully accredited by the renowned New York City-based Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children (COA).
The 15 field offices – with three in the city and another in Tinley Park – bring to a total of 23 the number of DCFS offices statewide to gain accreditation. The agency in 1996 set a goal of becoming the first state child welfare agency in the nation to achieve full accreditation of all of its sites and its contracted private agencies. DCFS has some 90 field and satellite sites statewide.

Meeting the rigorous standards of COA means raising the bar of quality of services to children and families.

"This was no small accomplishment," said Director Jess McDonald, who presented a COA plaque to the staff of the Cook North and Cook South field offices sited at 1911 S. Indiana Ave. at 9 a.m.; to staff at Cook Central’s 3518 W. Division St. office at 11:30 a.m.; and to staff at Cook South’s Tinley Park office at 7600 W. 183rd St. at 3 p.m.

"Accreditation involves thousands of hours refining field office operations to ensure that it meets a set of rigorous, nationally established requirements that cover every issue, from personnel to safety to fiscal and program management," McDonald said. "I am extremely proud of these four Chicago area field offices. Their ongoing dedication to maintaining accreditation not only speaks to their professionalism, but it attests to others that DCFS strives to deliver the very best quality in child welfare services."

Once a field office undertakes COA accreditation, a year-long preparation begins, which involves reviewing every aspect of how work is carried out by the office, including how well clients and the community are being served, how well cases are documented and filed, and how well staff are trained. The process requires input from the entire staff, as well as such outside participants as Juvenile Court officials and foster parents.

"The accreditation process is an example of team building at its best," said Cook South Regional Administrator Bertha Mitchell-Smith, who oversees Cook South sites at 1911 S. Indiana Ave. and Tinley Park. "Accreditation was an extremely positive, gratifying experience for all of our staff. It was a very inclusive process that drew on the skills and hard work of everyone from caseworkers to management, from clerical to business staff, and the hard work has paid off for the community that we serve."

The four Chicago area field offices began their preparation for the accreditation review in 1997. COA examiners visited the four offices in March 1998 to see if operations, casework and service delivery measured up to rigorous COA standards. The COA examiners later presented their findings to the national COA panel, and the four Chicago offices were among 15 statewide to recently receive written verification of their accreditation, and official plaques from the COA.

"Accreditation was a bottom up process," said Cook North Regional Administrator Chris McGrath, who oversees the Cook North site at 1911 S. Indiana Ave "I was really impressed by the spirit of the staff, by how well they prepared themselves for the process, and by how much they’ve learned during the process."

Benefits to COA’s esteemed stamp of approval include client participation, improved case management and documentation, and improved internal operations and accountability. Additionally, accreditation builds confidence by clients, foster and adoptive parents, community members, the courts and other child welfare advocates in DCFS service delivery.

"The stringent requirements of COA were challenging," said Cook Central Regional Administrator Ramon Nieves, who oversees the Cook Central site at 3518 W. Division. "But after achieving the COA stamp of approval, the staff feels empowered. They have a sense of pride that they are doing quality work. It was worth it!"

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