Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

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Director Jess McDonald

A state’s child welfare system is a barometer of how well our children and families fare in communities. It is also a barometer of the commitment of the citizens of the state to society’s most vulnerable members: abused and neglected children. The growing number of children served by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services reflects the problems families face -- the consequences of the

crushing burdens of drug abuse, poverty, poor housing and other factors. In response, the people of Illinois have increased the Department’s funding to an annual budget of more than $1.4 billion.

This home page describes the challenges and achievements experienced by one of the nation’s largest child welfare agencies during a period of dramatic change. When the Department was established in 1964, it became the first cabinet-level state agency in the nation expressly dedicated to serving children and families. In 1980, the Department opened one of the nation’s first statewide toll-free hotlines for reporting child abuse and neglect. In recent years the Department has faced unprecedented demands for its services.

The number of children reported to the state's Child Abuse Hotline nearly doubled between Fiscal Years 1986 amd 1995.  In Fiscal Year 1986, 102,230 child reports were taken by the DCFS Hotline.  In Fiscal Year 1995, the number reached an all-time high of 139,726 child reports. Annual child reports have declined gradually since then, with 103,743 child reports taken in Fiscal Year 2000. Approximately 33 percent of all reports are "indicated" or confirmed after investigations are completed. (Click here to see updated statistics in the Department's monthly Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics report).

The Department's substitute care population also grew  dramatically between Fiscal Years 1986 and 1997.There were approximately 14,000 children in substitute care at the end of Fiscal Year 1986. The number of children placed outside of the home of their parents reached its peak of 51,599 children in March 1997. Reforms, such as the state's Permanency Initiative, have since reduced the number of children living in substitute care to a five year low of 30,354 children in August 2000. (Click here to see updated statistics in the Department's monthly Executive Statistical Summay).

The Department is also responsible for the licensing and oversight of more than 2,700 day care centers and nearly 9,500 day care homes with a combined capacity to serve more than 246,000 children.(Click here to see updated statistics in the Department's monthly Executive Statistical Summay).

The Department also arranges the adoptions of more than 6,000 children each year. (Click here to see adoption trends dating to 1976).

In fact, the Department and its staff of approximately 4,000 workers are responsible for providing a wide range of services, described in The Act Creating the Department of Children and Family Services. The Act requires the Department to:

  • protect and promote the welfare of children, including homeless, dependent or neglected children;
  • provide social services to children and their families;
  • administer child abuse prevention shelters and service programs for abused and neglected children;
  • provide grant monies for comprehensive community-based services to reduce family dysfunction;
  • provide family preservation services, including emergency assistance, to families threatened with dissolution;
  • coordinate all day care activities for children of the State of Illinois;
  • provide adoption assistance to persons who adopt special needs children;
  • administer programs to divert youth from the child welfare and juvenile justice systems;
  • issue licenses and permits to child care facilities;
  • prevent or remedy, or assist in the solution of problems which may result in the neglect, abuse, exploitation or delinquency of children;
  • prevent the unnecessary separation of children from their families by identifying family problems, assisting families in resolving their problems, and preventing break-up of the family where the prevention of child removal is desirable and in the best interest of the child;
  • restore to their families children who have been removed, by the provision of services to the child and their family;
  • place children in suitable adoptive homes in cases where restoration to the biological family is not possible or appropriate;
  • assure adequate care of children away from their homes in cases where the child cannot be returned home or cannot be placed for adoption;
  • provide supportive services and living maintenance which contribute to the physical, emotional, and social well-being of children who are pregnant and unmarried; and,
  • provide shelter and independent living services for homeless youth.

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