Letter: Follow-up questions with new DCFS director

Published: Saturday, July 1, 2017 11:30 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

Beverly Walker was appointed June 26 as the new director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The next day, I had the opportunity to ask her questions in a Senate Human Services Committee hearing. My four questions all stemmed from the April 27 death of Sema’j Crosby.

When I read the DCFS Quality Assurance Review of the agency’s involvement with Sema’j’s family, I wrote in the margins the names of Joliet-area non-profit organizations and units of local government that perhaps could have helped Sheri Gordon, Sema’j’s mother, had they been asked to do so.

Therefore, I asked Acting Director Walker if she believes local resources have a role to play in DCFS’ work.

“Yes,” she said. “We can’t do it alone.”

I mentioned the Chicago Tribune’s report of a seven-week delay in DCFS entering handwritten notes about visits to Sema’j’s home into the state’s case registry. Acting Director Walker emphasized that “What matters is what action is taken” after the notes are made.

The DCFS Quality Assurance Review concludes with nine recommendations for improvement.

Only one requires legislation. The other eight improvements require changes in DCFS procedures. I asked about implementation of those eight. Acting Director Walker replied that since this was only her second day on the job, she needs time to familiarize herself with the recommendations. The Senate Human Services Committee will hold a second hearing July 25.

Finally, I noted that before leaving Illinois, former DCFS Director George Sheldon had secured a pro bono analysis of DCFS “front-end services” by Casey Family Services of Seattle, WA. Acting Director Walker welcomes this analysis. She said she will speak to Casey Family Services this week.

Sincerely,

Pat McGuire, State Senator, District 43