IL (May 3, 2004) - The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
honored two FBI agents and a supervisor for the Cook County States
Attorney at a training conference aimed at continuing successful efforts
to reduce the number of wards missing from state care.
challenge of runaway and other missing wards has been a chronic problem
for child welfare agencies nationwide, said DCFS director Bryan
Samuels at a statewide training event hosted by DCFS and the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The individuals we recognize
today highlight the importance of dedicated people from different organizations
working together to protect vulnerable children.
In May 2003,
Director Samuels convened the Illinois Task Force on Missing Children
to create a statewide strategic plan locate missing wards and review issues
related to youths absent from care. Since then, the Department has created
a 24-hour runaway helpline and a new unit responsible for coordinating
efforts to return missing wards. More than 94 percent of the 409 DCFS
wards reported missing when the Task Force was created have since been
annual DCFS Law Enforcement Awards were presented during ceremonies held
at the James R. Thompson Center, in conjunction with a multi-agency training
event on issues surrounding missing and abducted children. Up to a thousand
child welfare and juvenile justice professionals are anticipated to attend
the one-day training sessions scheduled in Chicago, Bloomington and Fairview
went to FBI agents Tina Fourkas and Kristin Cadieux, who head thee FBIs
Chicago Task Force on Child Prostitution. Much of their work focuses on
the plight of runaway children who become targets for opportunistic sex
offenders, drug dealers, pornographers and pimps. Since the creation of
the Task Force last summer, agents Fourkas and Cadieux have regularly
worked with DCFS staff, and have dealt compassionately with the child
victims they tracked down hundreds of leads.
was presented to Nick Argentine, the Cook County State's Attorneys
senior supervisor for all suburban trial support units. Argentine holds
a well-earned reputation as the Cook County State's Attorney's "go-to-guy"
for missing children. His investigative skills, coupled with a dedication
to serve juveniles, has helped to build a strong collaboration with DCFS.
Regardless of the circumstance, he has accepted every request for help
in locating and picking up missing DCFS wards in the States most
populous county, where more than 60 percent of children in substitute
care reside. Argentines dogged determination, coupled with a remarkable
ability to understand the complex issues associated with missing children,
has made him an invaluable resource to the Department in its efforts to
find and protect missing wards.
A child welfare
reform task force established by Governor Rod Blagojevich during his first
month in office found that DCFS was seriously undercounting its number
of missing wards. DCFS numbers in the previous year showed 800 children
labeled "whereabouts unknown," but only 200 children were listed
as missing.. The task force also found that too little attention was paid
to locating these children at risk. Chaired by Bryan Sameuls, who would
later be named the agencys director, the task force recommended
that DCFS should establish a unit with the sole responsibility of reviewing
and monitoring missing children's cases. In addition, it should develop
intervention services that focus on teenage girls, the most likely population
to run away, and look into alternative placement options for runaways
once they are located.
actions taken in the past year have sizably reduced the daily count of
missing wards -- from 409 in May 2003, to 305 children today. A 24-hour
DCFS Missing Children Helpline (866/503-0184) was launched in the summer
of 2003, followed by the creation of a 16 member missing child location
unit, also staffed round-the-clock. A unique Missing Child Database was
also developed to provide workers with updated information about missing
wards, including photographs, medical information and other important
has been a year-long process of getting people engaged to use new sets
of skills and resources to effectively identify and bring runaway kids
back into care," said director Samuels. reorganizing staff,
changing procedures and adding resources is not enough. People need to
believe in their hearts that finding runaway wards is a top priority.
I believe the numbers show that the message has gotten through.
the same time, Samuels added, we need to support the people
in the field who we are depending on to find children. Thats why
statewide training sessions like this are so important.
training event is the second time DCFS and the National Center for Missing
and Exploited Children have jointly trained workers about runaway issues.
Last August, the Center and DCFS trained child welfare and juvenile justice
professionals on techniques for speedier investigations of missing ward
reports, child and family abductions, recovery methods, investigative
resources, on-line victimization and agency planning. This weeks
training will focus on awareness of the vulnerability of children who
are missing, the importance immediate response to reports and efforts
to locate missing children.
with information about missing or abducted DCFS ward are encouraged to
call the 24-hour hotline at 866-503-0184.
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services