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Cook County Public Guardian Speaks Out After He Said He And His Department Were Being Silenced By DCFS

CHICAGO (CBS) -- His job is to fight for the kids who can't fight for themselves.

The Cook County Public Guardian is a watchdog over the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

But he tells CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov that DCFS is trying to silence him and his office.

Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert is speaking out again - this time, after DCFS acting director Marc Smith sent a letter to the guardian's office attorney Brian Finley, informing him his application to serve another term on the Child Welfare Advisory Committee, or CWAC, was being denied.

"It's just outrageous," Golbert said. "And I also say this is part of a very disturbing pattern of silence dissenting voices."

Golbert said CWAC not only advises DCFS but makes important recommendations on contracts and policies. He said his office has always had an employee on that committee.

Until now.

"Now the composition of this council essentially all agencies that have contracts with DCFS. That really limits their ability to disagree with DCFS," Golbert said.

Golbert then fired off a letter to Smith, stating "Without dissenting voices and viewpoints, there's no hope that DCFS's systemic dysfunction can improve."

This is dysfunction that CBS 2 has highlighted for years. Last October, Golbert went to court to fight for the right of a 17-year-old in DCFS' care to talk to CBS 2 about being locked in a psychiatric hospital months longer than needed, after DCFS first blocked it.

He spoke out this month about why a 10-year-old girl, who'd repeatedly been sexually assaulted, was returned to her home. And Finley voiced concerns to CBS 2 in August about how a DCFS change in insurance coverage could harm kids in foster care.

A CWAC co-chair and DCFS spokesperson said the goal was the make the committee more diverse, which they did, adding DCFS asked Golbert for a diverse recommendation to fill Finley's spot.

Golbert said that recommendation request came after Finley's rejection letter. He added his office represents about half of all children in DCFS care.

CWAC co-chair Beverly Jones said someone from the Cook County Guardian's Office can still attend meetings, just not in an official capacity.

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