At the beginning of the 103rd General Assembly, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie established several working groups within the House Republican Caucus to develop legislation for the priorities of the caucus and the people of Illinois. On Thursday, State Representative Tom Weber and his colleagues, including State Representative David Friess, provided an update on the progress of the Sustaining & Protecting At-Risk Kids working group.
“Protecting vulnerable children is not, and should not, be a partisan issue,” said Weber. “Protecting them is our most basic responsibility as a state, and I’ve spoken with many legislators on both sides of the aisle who agree. That’s why we are proposing House Bill 3471, the AJ Freund Act, to allow local law enforcement to conduct their own abuse or neglect investigations and require DCFS to share their investigation reports with local County State’s Attorneys to play a more active role in prosecuting abusers. We are also proposing House Bill 3002 to create an independent Ombudsperson to investigate complaints against DCFS, provide recommendations for policy changes and report to law enforcement when necessary.
“We believe these proposals, and others can have a real impact on fixing DCFS and I hope they will be considered for a vote before the spring session ends.”
Rep. Friess stated, “For the sake of the children, DCFS cannot remain broken. We need solutions and we need to implement them quickly. We have a responsibility to protect vulnerable children in our state and the legislation we’ve put together in this working group will help us to do just that.”
Also at the press conference was State Rep. Steve Reick, who discussed additional proposals:
- HB 2935 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to establish and operate a caseload tracking system which shall be designed to monitor and evaluate the interrelationship between client case plans, the Department’s case tracking system, and the work responsibilities of the Department.
- HB 2937 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to submit to the General Assembly no later than March 1 of each year a report in relation to the ongoing case files of the Department, the caseload tracking system or systems operated by the Department, the ratio of active case files to active Department personnel, and how appropriations to the Department can be structured to incentivize the Department to manage its caseload and to reduce the burden of individual case responsibilities upon individual Department personnel.
- HB 3614 – In a provision concerning foster placements, provides that prior to final approval for placement of a child, the Department of Children and Family Services shall request that the Illinois State Police conduct a criminal records background check of the prospective foster or adoptive parent, including fingerprint-based checks of national crime information databases.
- HB 3615 – Provides that the Department of Children and Family Services shall initialize, but not complete, the move of Family First functions, carried under the Act and the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act) from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
- HB 3618 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to develop a plan to phase in mandatory intact family services for at-risk families who are in need of continuing assistance and monitoring following a child abuse or neglect investigation.
For video of the complete press conference, click here.