As the days draw closer to October 1, when about 375 state social workers will be laid off, a group of more than 350 angry Illinois Department of Child and Family Service (DCFS) employees showed up at Gov. Pat Quinn’s Chicago office Tuesday afternoon to decry recent budget cuts.
Those cuts, the workers argue, will lead not only to the aforementioned job losses, but will harm the children and families who rely on the services provided by those state workers.
Edward Schwartz, regional vice president of Cook County DCFS Local 2081, said the Illinois Legislature’s recent decision to cut $50 million from the agency will result in the “virtual elimination” of the Intact Family Services program.
“We have dedicated our lives to providing services to abused and neglected children and their families,” Schwartz said from a podium at the gathering. “As a result of our hard work, we need to realize that we have cut the number of children coming to foster care over the past two decades.”
Some DCFS supporters in attendance carryied signs that read “Who Protects the Children? We Do!”
Intact Services workers monitor up to about 5,000 families, which include about 14,000 children, according to numbers provided by AFSCME, the worker’s union. The services they provide includes counseling, drug treatment, access to healthcare and daycare providers, and classes on anger management and parenting, among others.
Associate Director of AFSCME Council 31 Mike Newman also spoke at the rally. He said Intact Service workers have dropped the number of kids heading to foster care from about 50,000 to about 15,000 since 1990.
“There is nothing passive about what Pat Quinn is doing. He is attacking workers, he is attacking families, he’s attacking kids,” Newman said.
But Quinn says he wants the legislature to find money for DCFS when they reconvene on November 27 for the fall veto session, according to the State Journal-Register. But even if the money is restored, there’s no guarantee it will go towards restoring Intact Services.
Recently, DCFS has had its share of problems, especially with overburdened frontline workers who are handling nearly double the amount of caseloads allowed by federal rules. This has led to a severe lack of resources and some have associated it with the recent deaths of two children in the system.
Now, as the state looks towards privatizing the work of Intact Services to save money, some workers who are facing a layoff say that decision could lead to many abused and neglected Illinois children falling through the cracks of the system.
Additionally, new rules for DCFS will raise the threshold for many of the eligibility requirements and criteria, which means only the neediest families will be qualify for intact services.
“I know that working in the past with the private sector they’ve had to pick and choose the cases that they will [and]and will not take,” said Letreurna Packer, a 22-year DCFS veteran worker. “With Intact Families, we didn’t have to pick and choose. We got everything … Wherever the cases came from, we had to accept them.”