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  News  

DCFS Announces Major Reforms: "Lifetime" Approach to
Child Welfare Services in Illinois

DCFS Director Bryan Samuels prvodes details on the Department's new "lifetime" approach to the delivery of services to abused and neglected children at Friday's press conference.
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Chicago, (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 Bryan Samuels.
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 providers.
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."

Samuels was 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.


Major Reforms
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 performance outcomes.
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.

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Contact:
Kim Broom
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
312-814-6847

 

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