- Published: Thursday, January 08, 2015 11:41 AM
State elected officials heard testimony this week regarding abuses at DCFS residential facilities. The Joint Senate and House Committee hearing is to be the first of several such hearings, a move led by Senate Majority Caucus Whip Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).
"We made strides by inviting everyone from the agency director to the children the agency serves to discuss this issue from all sides. This was just the beginning. We will hold several hearings until we find legislative solutions to radically change DCFS," Hunter said.
On the heels of a Chicago Tribune investigative report, statewide elected officials joined forces to better understand the systematic failures within DCFS. In 2013, Sen. Hunter joined State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) to address the Tribune's report of over 100 children dying from abuse and neglect under the agency's watch.
The latest reports of neglect, abuse and prostitution of some wards of the state reignited the push for reforming the troubled agency.
During the hearing, agency director Bobbie Gregg announced she will be stepping down on Jan. 19, making her the seventh DCFS director to do so in three years.
"The issues at DCFS are larger than the director. We should not let the recent announcement overshadow the fact that hundreds of children have died and thousands have tried to run away. Frankly, I'm deeply concerned about every child in the hands of DCFS right now. It's going to take radical change from the top, down," said Hunter, who has passed youth-focused DCFS reform laws.
Hunter met with state senators and representatives to make the departmental reforms a top priority as the statehouse moves into the 99th General Assembly. She reached out to community leaders, members of legal and advocacy groups and extended an invitation to representatives of Casey Family Programs to weigh in on Illinois' struggle to help wards of the state.
This week's hearing marked the first of several hearings that will continue well into the spring.