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Illinois DCFS report card for past two years shows more failures than last review

New Illinois Auditor General report shows more failures at DCFS
New Illinois Auditor General report shows more failures at DCFS 02:30

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Illinois Department of Child and Family Services got its report card Tuesday on how it has been doing the last two years – and it was not good.

As CBS 2 Political Reporter Chris Tye reported, there were more failures than in the last review, but similar promises to improve.

Last time the state Auditor General updated us, there were 30 major failures by DCFS. This time, it's 33.

When Illinois' most vulnerable kids are in their darkest moments, it is the job of the Department of Children and Family Services to shine a light on what has gone wrong. But a just-released Illinois Auditor General's report, examining the last two years of DCFS performance, finds the list of missteps by the department is growing, not shrinking.

Numerous children died while on the DCFS radar over those two years, Meanwhile, many issues at DCFS have gone uncorrected for much longer.

"You can see some of these findings are on repeat dating back more than 25 years," said Cook County Chief Deputy Public Guardian Alpa Patel.

The department's misfires include waiting days and weeks and months to notify authorities - from prosecutors to school districts - when calamity strikes.

In the most serious cases involving child death, injury, torture, malnutrition, and sex abuse, it is DCFS' job to notify - within 24 hours - local authorities like the state's attorneys of credible cases.

DCFS failed to do so 20 percent of the time - in some cases waiting five to 43 days. 

"The fact that they're waiting more than almost five days to almost month out before they're coordinating is highly concerning," Patel said, "because a lot of info on the wellbeing and safety of those children is lost during that period of time."  

The report says this has been happening since 2012.

New report documents failures over past two years at DCFS 02:39

"A huge sense of in terms of lack of urgency in terms of what the department needs to be doing," Patel said.

Patel said that lack of urgency - for an agency that costs $1.8 billion a year to operate - costs the lives of some of the state's most vulnerable. 

When there are cases of sex abuse at school, state law calls for DCFS to notify the school when the investigation is complete.

The report shows when credible evidence of abuse is found, in 96 percent of cases, DCFS failed to quickly notify the school - in some cases leaving school districts in the dark for between 431 and 908 days.

In both instances, DCFS accepted the recommendations for improving the behavior outlined by the auditor general.

"It's great that you acknowledge that there's an issue but again, what going to change between this audit report and the one that's going to come out two years from now?" Patel said.

DCFS, which has been plagued with problems for decades under both Republican and Democratic state leaders, agreed with the findings in this report and recommendations to improve.

"Accountability and recognizing what needs to change and taking drastic action when that's necessary has to happen - and I don't necessarily think that we've seen that in the past – just certainly not in the past couple years," Patel said.

DCFS is getting an 11 percent budget boost next year, exceeding $2 billion in Illinois taxpayer money for the first time ever.

In a statement late Tuesday, DCFS said they always notify law enforcement and/or the State's Attorney on their cases when required to do so. 

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