Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

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Governor's Budget Address

Press Release

Dateline
Springfield, IL
Feb. 2, 2000

 

Governor Geroge H. Ryan

 GOVERNOR’S BUDGET FOR CHILDREN & FAMILY SERVICES SUPPORTS CONTINUED
 PERMANENCY FOR CHILDREN

  Governor George H. Ryan today proposed a $1.4 billion fiscal year 2001 budget for the Department of Children and Family Services, which includes $59.5 million to fund a net increase of 5,200 children through the subsidized adoption and guardianship programs.  Early in the fiscal year the Department will pass an important milestone when the number of former wards of the state supported in loving, permanent homes through adoption and guardianship subsidies exceeds the number of children supported in substitute care placements. 

At the end of fiscal year 1997 there were 50,727 children in substitute care.  By the end of fiscal year 2001 there will be just 27,330 children in out-of-home care, a 46 percent reduction in just four years.  The state will then have fewer children in custody than at any point since April 1992.  By contrast, there were only 11,539 children receiving adoption and guardianship subsidies at the end of fiscal year 1997.  At the end of fiscal year 2001 there will be 36,795, a 218.9 percent increase.  Illinois led the nation in the growth in the number of adoptions completed in 1998 and again in 1999.  The state has moved from being a low performer in the proportion of children adopted each year to the best in the nation.

“The changes that have taken place in the state’s child welfare system have been truly remarkable,” Ryan said.   “The reforms of DCFS have resulted in dramatically better government services, but most importantly, they have improved the lives of thousands of the state’s most vulnerable citizens; abused and neglected children.

“The department has also continued to do a better job of assessing the risk children face and disrupting families only when it is truly necessary to protect the child.  While fewer children are being brought into state custody, the number of children who are found to be abused again after DCFS involvement has declined,” the Governor added. 

The number of children brought into care for the first time in fiscal year 1999 (8,186) was less than half of what it was in fiscal year 1995 (16,431).  In addition, instances of re-abuse have also fallen by more than half.

The department’s budget grew at double-digit percentage rates every year between fiscal year 1989 and fiscal year 1997.  However, since FY97, management reforms have allowed DCFS’ budgets to remain level.  In fact, the department’s total FY2001 budget will increase by a mere 0.1 percent - $1.2 million.

DCFS Director Jess McDonald noted that the caseloads and budgets for child welfare in most states continue to grow.  He indicated that the turnaround in Illinois has been achieved through a series of major reforms and the work of many different people, including reforms of relative and residential care passed by the General Assembly in 1995.  More recently, federal and state permanency legislation passed in 1997, special efforts to promote permanency in the Cook County courts, and the department’s own performance contracting initiative have contributed to the dramatic increase in the movement of children to permanency.

“The new laws sent a clear message that it is important to move children through the system quickly,” said Director McDonald.  “Judges throughout the state, and particularly in Cook County, quickly embraced these new laws and set about making them work for children.  The department and private agencies agreed to a performance contracting system that rewarded good results and the private sector responded by moving thousands of children out of state custody.  It took thousands of people to make this work.”

The state’s subsidized guardianship program is another important factor in the increased movement of children out of state custody.  Since 1996, the state has been able to provide subsidies to families who accept guardianship of a child, even if parental rights have not been terminated, through a federal waiver.  This option is not available in other states.  At of the end of fiscal year 2001, there will be 5,440 children receiving support through this program.  Almost all of these children would still be in state care without this alternative.

Progress also continues to be made in limiting the number of children placed in restrictive residential settings.  By the end of fiscal year 2001, there will be fewer children placed in residential settings than at any time since fiscal year 1991 and there will be 44 percent fewer than there were at the end of fiscal year 1995.  In addition, the number of children placed in residential settings outside of Illinois will fall below 100, from a high point of 792 in May 1995.  Already, 95 percent of out-of-state placements are either in contiguous states or in secured facilities that are not yet available in Illinois.

An additional $599,800 has been included to increase funding of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs).  These centers coordinate the activities of various agencies involved in the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child sexual abuse cases and serious child physical abuse cases.  The department considers CACs to be an important part of its effort to improve decision-making and early treatment for some of the most serious cases it sees.

This budget will also support the department’s efforts to improve the quality of the services it delivers.  In particular, the budget will allow DCFS to continue its effort to become accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Children and Families.   Achieving this distinction would mean DCFS’ services meet the national standard of excellence in social work.  At this time, Oklahoma is the only accredited state child welfare agency.   The agency as a whole will be accredited during fiscal year 2001.  In addition, all private agency foster care providers must be accredited by the end of fiscal year 2001.

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For Further Information Contact:

Martha Allen
Tel: 312-814-2074
Fax: 312-814-2783