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Gov. Pritzker Pushes For $147 Million In New Funds For DCFS, An Agency Plagued By Troubles

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A big infusion of cash appears headed to one of the biggest trouble spots in state government.

CBS 2 has learned that Gov. J.B. Pritzker is about to push for a $1.5 billion budget for the Department of Children and Family Services.

But does that organization deserve it after the troubled year they have had? CBS 2's Chris Tye examined the dollars and deficiencies Monday evening.

The 2019 DCFS report card is in. It includes failures to monitor and protect 5-year-old AJ Freund before he was found dead, kids being shackled as recently as last week, psychiatric hospital stays going on longer than medically necessary, and children in state care left to sleep in state office buildings.

"DCFS, right now, clearly has a lot of problems," said state House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago).

If the question is how to handle the problems, Pritzker has just answered. His just-released budget proposal adds $147 million in taxpayer dollars to the department – bringing its budget to $1.5 billion.

It is unclear where the money will come from, and if the Illinois General Assembly will approve it.

The proposal calls for adding more than 100 additional staffers and 500 more foster beds.

"But the proof is going to be in the pudding," Harris said. "When we come to this time next year, I hope we can look back and see a lot of changes and improvements."

One major improvement for which Harris is hoping is keeping kids in state care within the State of Illinois.

CBS 2 reviewed all DCFS travel logs for kids in care from over the last two years.

Chicago kids have been shipped to 17 different out-of-state facilities from Florida to Kansas and Tennessee, because Illinois resources have dried up.

But it is costly to move the kids and tricky to monitor them, and it leaves them farther from family.

"It's bad on every front," Harris said. "These are our kids we need to keep them in our state, in communities where they grew up."

Even the harshest critics of the DCFS said they are hopeful the new dollars will provide new alternatives for kids.

But with the same leaders in place, there is a healthy dose of cynicism suggesting that this could be good money after bad put in the hands of the same people who gave us that 2019 report card.

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