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Excuses for DCFS Failures are Endangering Children

DCFS Director Marc Smith has been held in contempt of court for a shocking 11th time. The record 11th citation concerns the case of an 11-year-old girl who was physically abused while in DCFS care and is considered a danger to herself and others. She has spent months waiting for appropriate placement in a secure residential treatment center.

Minority Leader Jim Durkin said, “While Governor J.B. Pritzker continues to deflect blame for the failures of his administration at DCFS and refuses to accept responsibility for his agency’s inaction, children continue to suffer. How many kids have to be hurt and neglected by this vital agency before Pritzker will roll up his sleeves and actually do something about it? The Governor has had three and a half years to get this agency and his hand-picked director under control – he owns its ongoing failures. Today, I call on the Governor to remove Director Smith for the good of the children in Illinois who need a functioning DCFS to keep them safe.” Many House Republicans joined Leader Durkin in calling for Marc Smith, the Director of the struggling Department of Children and Family Services, to step down. The call comes after a damning report from the Illinois Auditor Generalwas released on May 12 and yet another contempt of court charge was handed down to Director Smith this week. “The recent audit is full of glaring failures at DCFS under Smith’s leadership in 2020,” Rep. Tom Weber said. “Most alarmingly, the audit says that DCFS failed to follow through and check on the welfare of kids when returning them to homes with known issues and then in most cases failed to follow up in providing services. There were 102 deaths of children known to DCFS that year. How many were lost in part because of the issues outlined by this audit? What will an audit reveal about 2021 when even more children, 122, died?” Rep. Weber joined State Representative Steve Reick, State Representative Deanne Mazzochi, and State Representative Chris Bos in a press conference Tuesday calling for Pritzker to accept responsibility for what is happening at DCFS and to take action in removing Marc Smith if he does not step down. “For a court to issue a contempt order against an agency head, the situation has to be dire,” Rep. Weber said. DCFS Director Smith has been held in contempt of court 11 times since January for failure to properly place specific children in DCFS’s care. In some cases, the child had been left languishing in a mental health hospital for months after medically necessary. Seven of the ten children remain improperly placed. “That’s a result of continued failed leadership.” Since the department’s inception 58 years ago in 1964, there have been 29 different department directors. “We were reluctant to call for a resignation prior to today because we understand that stability at the top is important and institutional change is difficult. We were willing to give Smith and Pritzker the benefit of the doubt that improvements were happening. However, this audit and the continued contempt orders show a clear lack of progress.” “Pritzker and Smith have been in charge for three years and have had three straight years of significant budget increases with nothing to show for it,” Rep. Weber finished by saying. “We can’t afford to give Smith any more chances, this is about protecting the lives of innocent children.” The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) joined the call for a change in leadership at DCFS, stating the following: “We might feel differently if the Director had a strategic plan with timelines that the General Assembly was refusing to fund. Instead, we have seen the General Assembly dramatically increase funding for the department only for the most glaring issues to remain unaddressed. “We wince at the idea of yet another change at DCFS, but holding onto failed leadership just so our governor doesn’t have to admit his choice didn’t work out is hurting children in Illinois. Protecting our kids, strengthening families in trauma, and ensuring our kids brought into care succeed should be more important than the politics playing out here. Our kids can’t wait until after an election, we need the governor to act now.”


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