CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Westchester) called for hearings and an investigation after state Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith was held in contempt of court for violating the rights of children.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reported Friday that in a stunning move, a Cook County Juvenile Court judge issued two contempt of court orders against Smith for violating the rights of two children left languishing in facilities for months. DCFS could soon be fined as much as $2,000 a day until those children are properly placed.
Durkin on Monday issued a letter to state Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Oak Park), chairperson of the Human Services Appropriations Committee. Durkin noted in the letter that the DCFS receives more than $1 billion in state support per year, and is "tasked with protecting the state's most vulnerable residents, a mission both Republicans and Democrats can agree is essential to the state.
"That is why it is so heartbreaking to see that DCFS Director Marc Smith is being held in contempt of court for failing to do his job," Durkin wrote.
One court order against Smith describes how a 9-year-old girl suffered years of physical and sexual abuse at home. Then after entering DCFS care, she was put into a psychiatric hospital. She was medically ready to be discharged back in June 2021, but she's still hospitalized.
A judge wrote DCFS disobeyed numerous court orders to get the child out of the hospital in October and November. This is why DCFS Director Smith is being held in contempt.
The girl has been confined in the psychiatric hospital for 221 days since the date she was supposed to be discharged.
The other contempt order was issued after a 13-year-old boy in DCFS care was forced to sleep in a storage room.
"He was sleeping on the floor of a utility room in an office," said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert. "Closet of an office."
That child was then sent to a downstate shelter and has been stuck there for 145 days - the reason for Smith's other contempt charge.
DCFS had received repeated complaints regarding her dating back several years. At least five men had sexually assaulted her since the age of seven and she suffered other abuse. DCFS failed to put her in protective custody until her final rape case at the Grand Motel in October of 2020.
"Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Under the Pritzker administration, more than 350 children have been left to languish in psychiatric care despite having been cleared to move on to a family setting," Durkin wrote in the Monday letter. "The unprecedented step by the Cook County judiciary to hold Director Smith in contempt needs to be a wake-up call to the General Assembly. The lack of action by DCFS is failing the children in the care of the state."
Durkin called on Lilly to "immediately convene hearings" with Smith on the issue.
"The taxpayer dollars that have been allocated to DCFS are clearly not being spent the way the General Assembly intended, and the core mission of DCFS is not being fulfilled," Durkin wrote. "It is the duty of your committee to immediately investigate this matter, our children can't wait."
The two new contempt cases also call for sanctions - fines of $1,000 a day, per child, for every day the 9-year-old and 13-year-old are not properly placed.
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