Letter to Chicago Tribune Editor regarding Residential Treatment Centers.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Posted by: Bill Cox
December 12, 2014
The Chicago Tribune’s reporting has shed a necessary light on the turmoil that had engulfed the lives of dozens of Illinois wards among the 1,400 children in state residential treatment centers, centers that will face needed scrutiny by DCFS and the legislature in the following weeks and months.
The Tribune reporting has addressed issues of inadequate therapeutic programmatic care, inadequate financing, and inadequate staffing, and these are issues that we also view as essential to protecting children. And we urge that dramatic reforms to DCFS must go beyond money and manpower.
The Tribune series, however, in its portrayal of DCFS residential treatment centers in some critical areas, failed.
The series charges that Illinois residential treatment care as a system is in “chaos”. That’s false.
As painful as the Tribune’s reports about the experiences of dozens of kids between 2011 and 2013 were, the fact remains that of the 1,400 youth in residential treatment the vast majority were without incident during the same period.
The vast majority of youth had not engaged in assault of other children of workers or citizens and had not engaged in prostitution or criminal activity. The cases profiled in the series represent a fraction of the 1,400 children served in such programs each year.
Additionally, the Tribune asserted that it was able to “pierce a shroud of secrecy”. That’s also false. In fact, it is the diligent reporting by the residential treatment agencies that provided much of the Tribune’s data.
Equally, the Tribune’s claim that residential treatment is “loosely monitored” by DCFS is, again, false. DCFS spends approximately $30 million per year monitoring the Illinois child welfare system.
Moreover, our association has sounded the alarm bell for years about the work force shortage crisis that has afflicted residential treatment centers that are under staffed, under trained, and under supervised, a crisis driven, in large part, by financial starvation by the state.
As a centerpiece of the comprehensive reform package that the Child Care Association will propose to lawmakers, will be initiatives that aim to attract, train, and supervise qualified and committed professionals to the Illinois child welfare system.
Nevertheless, as we acknowledge, pumping more money and manpower into the existing Illinois child welfare system will not serve as the solution alone. But any proposal that fails to include robust new funding will be a proposal grounded in delusion.
Margaret M. Berglind
President and CEO
Child Care Association of Illinois
You can download a copy of this letter HERE.