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Lawmakers Probe Illinois Youth Centers In Wake Of Newspaper Series

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The head of the agency that oversees children who are wards of the state told state lawmakers Wednesday that a revolving door at the top is partly to blame for abuses that have plagued the department for decades.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services acting director Bobbie Gregg said claims of brutality, sexual assaults, and other abuse at state-run youth centers are "appalling" and "unacceptable," but are far from a new problem.

Testifying at a hearing held by members of six House and Senate panels in Chicago, she said part of the problem is perpetual changes in leadership at DCFS.

"I have been serving in this capacity since March 1st of 2014. I am the seventh director of the department in three years, and I was the third director within four months," she said.


The revolving door will spin once again in a couple weeks, after Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes office.

"I have been that my tenure will not be extended beyond January 19th," she said.

Gregg asked to submit just a written statement to lawmakers.

"Under the present circumstances, I would ask to be excused from further attendance at this hearing," she said.

Gregg told lawmakers staffers at DCFS residential centers are minimum wage employees in a task requiring skilled professionals. She said it would take better focus and funding to improve conditions for wards of the state who are housed at residential treatment centers.

The hearing was scheduled in the wake of a series of Chicago Tribune reports examining allegations of violence and prostitution at residential treatment facilities where wards of the state are placed. The Tribune cited interviews and data from DCFS.

Gregg said she hopes legislative hearings on the scandal provide a chance to improve conditions at the agency.

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