(October 8, 2004) - Infusing the state's child welfare system with a "lifetime"
approach in the delivery of services to abused and neglected children,
the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) today announced
a series of major reforms.
These reforms will alter the direction of child welfare, including "day-one"
holistic mental health assessments, a streamlining of the delivery of
services to ensure timely and continuous supports, a new emphasis on the
impact of trauma, and intensive stabilization for youth with a pattern
of multiple placements.
"For too long, child welfare systems have treated children coming
into care as if their stays would be short. Research shows, however, that
the average child in Illinois remains in care for 4. 5 years. We must
work to move a child forward or we risk missing critical developmental
opportunities - years that can never be regained," said DCFS Director
Additional policy changes include a reduction in private agency foster
care caseloads, family-supported adolescent care as an alternative for
older youth who are transitioning to adulthood, and the implementation
of a Residential Performance Unit, which will, for the first time in the
Department's history, systematically monitor the performance of residential
The announcement of these reforms was made concurrently with the release
of the Department's Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement
Plan which was approved this week by the federal government and the release
by Chapin Hall Center for Children's "Residential Care in Illinois:
Trends and Alternatives."
"Over the course of the last year, we have benefited greatly from
the federal review process, research reports from Chapin Hall, and a growing
body of research disclosing the powerful scientific relationship between
trauma experienced by abused and neglected children and long-term physical
and emotional development," said DCFS director Bryan Samuels.
"The essence of this disparate work is clear - for youth who move
quickly into permanency, for those who stay in care over a year or more,
and for our older youth who may never achieve permanency and therefore
must look towards life on their own, we must do a better job," said
Samuels. "These reforms will penetrate deeply into the practices
of the department to ensure that each child receives a quality and complete
plan for their entire stay in state care."
joined by officials from the University of Chicago Chapin Hall Center
for Children, leading representatives of Illinois' hospitals and universities,
private sector providers, and child welfare advocates. "We believe
Illinois is at the forefront of identifying the challenges and solutions
for the improved care of these vulnerable youth. This package of reforms
represents a major shift in the direction of child welfare, " said
Rick Velasquez, Executive Director, Youth Outreach Services.
"The next two years will be devoted to implementing these reforms
which are designed to actualize this lifetime approach to child welfare.
Our reforms will not be confined to the expectations of the federal government;
but will rather be wholly driven by the needs of the children and youth
in state care. When fully implemented we will have a system that more
completely fulfills society's obligation to provide for these children
as strong parents should," commented Director Samuels.
Integrated Assessment: The Integrated Assessment will provide a comprehensive
clinical understanding of the child from the moment he enters care and
will develop a service plan directly related to that understanding. The
Department has entered into partnerships with universities and hospitals
across the state to provide the clinical and professional expertise required
to conduct the assessments. The geographical distribution of this capacity
has been closely aligned to state intake trends. Southern Illinois University,
Children's Memorial Hospital, Northern Illinois University, La Rabida
Children's Hospital and Erikson Institute are leading partners with the
department in implementing this reform.
Child and Youth Investment Teams: The Child and Youth Investment Teams
will streamline the decision-making processes for available services.
The reconfiguration serves two primary objectives: to deliver services
to children and youth earlier and to foster continuity and communication
about the youth. The implementation goal is January 1, 2005 with a phase
in of identified trigger events.
Trauma Treatment:: All components of the child welfare system must recognize
and respond to the comprehensive impact that trauma has on the life of
a child in care. Research presented at the Johnson and Johnson Pediatric
Institute meeting in February of 2004 concluded that, "The effects
of trauma can be pervasive, impacting school readiness and performance,
diminishing cognitive abilities and leading to substance abuse, disabling
mental disorders and costly physical health problems." These problems
commonly included depression, anxiety, aggression, conduct disorder, sexualized
behaviors, and eating problems. Reducing the negative childhood and adult
consequences is possible with early and rapid identification of traumatized
children. The Department will target a significant portion of the $20
million currently spent on "counseling" services to provide
treatment for childhood trauma. A comprehensive effort is underway to
identify appropriate treatment protocols, programs and opportunities.
Transitional Living Program and Independent Living Program Re-Design:
Currently, there is no uniform definition or structure in Independent
Living and Transitional Living Programs. An extensive collaborative effort
involving three divisions of the Department and the provider community
has spent the last several months surveying existing program structures
and available services. The result of this collaborative effort has been
the development of a seamless continuum of services transitioning youth
to adulthood. The continuum has five stages of progression. A youth may
enter a transitional living program at one of four levels depending on
his or her age, educational attainment, behavior and level of functioning.
A youth may progress to the fifth stage-an Independent Living Program-only
after having spent time in a transitional living program. Even when a
youth is admitted to an ILO, he will not be completely on his own. The
new program will be designed to support progressive responsibility with
the expectation that by the age of 21 the young adult will be well prepared
to pay his own rent and maintain himself in the apartment.
Foster Caseload Re-Design: Implemented in fiscal year 2005 contracts,
the Foster Care Caseload Re-Design reduces the private agency foster care
caseloads from 18-1 to 15-1 to assist in improving the quality of the
casework. The new contracts remove prescriptive staffing rules thereby
providing more flexibility to target staff as necessary to reach new well-being
Intensive Stabilization Services: This initiative includes a series of
targeted strategies to stabilize older youth with a pattern of multiple
placements and run behavior. Traditional responses have not worked for
these youth. The new strategies will provide innovative, informed approaches
to engaging the youth and stabilizing his life and relationships before
emerging from the system into adulthood.
Family-Supported Adolescent Care: This work involves the identification
and engagement of a new cadre of foster parents singularly committed to
serving older adolescents during their transition to adulthood. By the
time they reach age 16, eighty per cent of youth in care have changed
their goal from permanency to independence. These youth need the stability
and mentorship of a foster home well versed in the challenges and beauty
of the process of coming of age.
Residential Performance Unit: The Residential Performance Unit will provide
the Department with the ability to track the progress of youth during
stays in residential facilities to both to ensure progress and timely
discharge back to community based living. This unit will also monitor
the ability of providers to successfully serve the youth in their care.
The University of Illinois, Northwestern University, and the Department
will jointly staff the unit. The unit will be fully operational when hiring
is completed--expected in November of this year. The Residential Performance
Unit will provide the first opportunity for DCFS to systemically monitor
the performance of its residential providers in a manner that accounts
for individual treatment plans and outcomes.
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services