Daily Herald opinion: Bill to strengthen rights of foster kids important, but just one step


This editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Trea Jackson deserved better.

A victim of abuse and neglect, she was removed from her home when she was 5. Jackson thought she was "being rescued."

Instead, she entered a foster care system that would fail her over and over again.

As Daily Herald reporter Maria Gardner wrote Tuesday, Jackson bounced through more than 40 foster care placements in Illinois, California and Florida, landing at times in homeless shelters and even psych wards. She endured physical and emotional abuse from a foster guardian, yet never received a visit from a social worker who might have helped her.

Now 42 and living in Palatine, Jackson drew on her past to craft a proposal to help children growing up as she did. She worked with state Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican, to strengthen the rights of foster children and require that the Department of Children and Family Services make sure that children in their custody receive age-appropriate information on what is acceptable and unacceptable affection and discipline from adults and foster siblings.

The bill also addresses young adults aging out of the system. If the bill becomes law, they would be advised of their rights to independent living services and given tools to be self-sufficient adults. Without that, Jackson said, many will wind up on the streets or behind bars.

The bill received bipartisan support and now awaits Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature. He should provide it, along with a pledge that this is just one step in safeguarding children whose lives are impacted by DCFS’ actions — and inaction.

On Friday, Capitol News Illinois reported that a Cook County judge found DCFS Director Marc Smith in contempt. It’s actually the ninth time this year that Smith has been hit with contempt citations for failing to place children in appropriate settings. The most recent involved a teen with special needs living in a locked psychiatric unit.

Much more needs to be done to protect children both in DCFS’ direct care and on the agency’s radar.

Since December, as CNI pointed out, at least five children have died after DCFS contact, including Damari Perry of North Chicago.

Trea Jackson rose above her rocky start in life. Now, she is helping others to do the same.

She humbles and inspires us.

Over the years, we’ve run way too many stories of children failed by the system designed to protect them. It’s long past time to turn that around.

via DailyHerald.com > Top News

April 27, 2022 at 10:01PM

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