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Illinois DCFS Director Marc Smith held in contempt of court for 10th time over failure to place youth

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A tenth contempt of court order has been issued against Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith.

The contempt orders all stem from the department's ongoing failures to place youth properly, such that they end up stuck in in psychiatric facilities long after they are ready to be released.

Cook County Juvenile Court Judge Patrick Murphy – who previously served as Cook County Public Guardian – has been hearing these cases, issuing the orders, and slapping the director with steep fines of $1,000 per day per case. The fines are on hold until an appellate court ruling.  

This tenth contempt of court order involves a young girl who entered DCFS care more than a year ago. She has spent most of her time in inappropriate placements instead of in a residential treatment center getting the care she needs.

During court, it was said the little girl suffered sexual abuse when she was as young as 8 years old and the system failed to treat her underlying issues related to her trauma. 

Since entering DCFS, the girl spent about 45 days in a foster placement.  The rest of the time, she has been in what's characterized as shelters and also psychiatric hospitals.

Twice, she has been psychiatrically hospitalized and then left in those facilities long after she was ready to be released.  The most recent and ongoing hospitalization led to the latest contempt of court order. 

Also in court, it was said the child is having significant struggles related to being left there longer after she was ready to be released.

Smith has been held in contempt of court for similar circumstances nine other times since Jan. 6.

Three contempt orders came down against Smith in March. Two involved youth in care who had been languishing in psychiatric hospitals long after they were ready to be medically discharged. One of those children was just 11 years old, and had been ready to get out of a psychiatric hospital since last April.

The third involved a 16-year-old boy who at the time had spent more than 375 days – almost the whole time he has been in DCFS custody – in a shelter that did not have the resources to support his needs given his intellectual and cognitive disabilities. It's unclear what has happened with the teen since then.

A Cook County Juvenile Court judge also held Smith in contempt in several other recent cases due to DCFS' failure to get those children into appropriate care.

Judge Murphy in March also brought up the issue of the DCFS not having placements for older teens who are ready to get out of residential facilities. At one point recently, there were about 150 teenagers stuck in residential facilities. 

Until they are properly placed, other children can't get in for the care they need. 

Late in January, lawmakers held a virtual hearing on the DCFS, with some even suggesting overhauling the department if Smith can't right the ship.

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