CBS 2 Investigation uncovering neglect and abuse allegations against foster parents leads to state lawmaker demanding change

CHICAGO (CBS) — A staggering discovery made by the CBS 2 Investigators has an Illinois State Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago) calling for a new law.

The team uncovered a pattern, dating back to 2016, of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services routinely closing abuse and neglect claims against foster care parents – classifying them as unfounded 90 percent of the time.

"There is a serious issue with DCFS," said Collins. "This is a child protective service, and these children don’t feel protected."

Collins knows about foster care abuse from her own personal life experience. She grew up in the DCFS system as a foster child, but she was not aware how overwhelmingly often Illinois foster parents are cleared of abuse and neglect allegations.  The nine times out of ten statistic CBS 2 uncovered in the data is a number the agency has kept secret.

"It is really, really mind-boggling for me," she said.

Collins also did not know about something else the CBS 2 Investigators uncovered — DCFS fails to track how often it contacts police when they receive reports about child abuse and neglect within the DCFS system.  

"The public looks at it like you are deceiving the public," said Collins.

Collins, the newly elected leader of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus wants to create a new law requiring DCFS to track its calls to police and the outcomes. 

"The tracking part is important, because how then can you see the red flags?" she said.

Collins said when she was a teenager in DCFS care, a foster parent abused her and was never held accountable.

"She beat me up right in front of other kids in the house," said Collins. "Police were not notified. The caseworker never followed up with me. It’s like it never happened."

Last month, we reported on 14 former foster care children who came forward to expose a troubling pattern of unfounded abuse within DCFS. Each person said they suffered abuse while in care, yet none of their offenders were ever held responsible.  

"They were not lying," said Collins. "They were telling the truth."

The CBS 2 Investigators conducted an exhaustive analysis of how thousands of child abuse and neglect allegations, dating back to 2016, were handled by DCFS. We obtained never before seen data revealing a deeply troubling pattern. When an allegation of child abuse or neglect is made, nine out of ten times DCFS classifies it as unfounded.

Collins did not know about all the unfounded cases until she watched the CBS2 report in November and called it "disheartening."

"You have the data and I don’t – and I’m a lawmaker," said Collins. "What else are we not getting?"

Collins says she has been trying to reform the agency. And she says despite repeated requests, DCFS has stonewalled her from getting the kind of crucial data CBS Chicago has uncovered. The data shows foster parent abuse and neglect claims rose from 961 in 2016 to 1205 in 2021 — a 25 percent increase. 

The most common form of abuse we found involves physical harm and neglect. Allegations include bone fractures, head injuries, burns, and torture. A staggering number of these allegations, 91 percent, were classified as unfounded by DCFS investigators.

"I’ve been neglected, sexually abused, mentally abused," said Caprice Langstaff, who was one of the 14 former foster children we reported on and is now speaking out. His abusers were never prosecuted.

The same happened to Mallory Stout.

"They know how to hit you without leaving marks," she said.

"No child should go through that," said Caylon Brown, who spent most of her life in DCFS care.

She says her cries for help went unanswered after two men sexually assaulted her. The first time was when she was just five 5 old, and she was kept in abusive homes.  

"It’s not common for a kid to catch an STD as young as I did," said Brown. "But that’s the first time I caught my STD – when I was 5."

"How many more have to get raped or harmed in the current operations?" said Collins.

The data the CBS 2 Investigators obtained contains more than 6,000 abuse and neglect allegations made against 3,200 foster parents. While overall, nearly 90 percent of all allegations go unfounded, allegations of sexual offenses including sexual abuse risk, molestation, penetration, and exploitation, also have been unfounded by DCFS – 88 percent of the time.

"It’s a history and culture that has, allows, [a] system to cover up abuse within it," said Collins. "That’s why what you all are doing is so important."

She wants accountability from a system that has kept its records shrouded in secrecy for decades.

The CBS 2 Investigators filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with DCFS in March 2021. We requested police referral data. 

DCFS rejected the FOIA saying: "Please be advised that compliance with your FOIA request, as drafted, would be unduly burdensome. It would require the Department to devote substantial time and manpower to individually reviewing files to determine if police departments were contacted. Police contact information is not logged separately but is found within case notes of investigations"

But late Thursday, just hours before CBS 2’s 10 p.m. news broadcast, DCFS changed its story – and they’re now telling CBS 2 they do have that data after all. They say they are now working on giving it to us.

News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago

via Local News – CBS Chicago

December 15, 2022 at 10:49PM

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