Proposed measure sets up protections for Illinois families when dealing with DCFS

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) — Lawmakers and family rights advocates are pushing to pass a measure that would set up protections for parents when dealing with the Department of Children and Family Services. 

Senate Bill 2246, filed by Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, provides parents with legal protections when speaking with DCFS about a child abuse investigation.

“Establishing transparency when it comes to forensic investigations of abuse and neglect is vital,” Lightford said in a statement last month. “Charging a parent or guardian with neglect or abuse should not be the sole decision of a single DCFS investigator. This measure will allow families to obtain a second medical opinion and provides protections to ensure children are not needlessly ripped from their homes on the basis of a single individual’s assessment of the situation.”

Michelle Weidner of the Family Justice Resource Center, a group that looks to ensure that child abuse investigations are rooted in due process and evidence-based medicine, told The Center Square that the bill would also provide protections for children. 

“The measures proposed by this bill would increase the efficiency and efficacy of investigations and help protect the children who are actually suffering abuse and neglect by ensuring that resources are not being misdirected towards investigating innocent families,” Weidner said. 

Weidner said the current DCFS process has shown to single out families of certain races when conducting their investigations. 

“A shocking 53% of Black families in the U.S. are investigated by child welfare agencies at least once,” Weidner said. “In Cook County alone, 68% percent of kids in DCFS care are Black, compared to 23% of the population.” 

DCFS investigates injuries in children by sending their own medical professionals to interview the child and look over records to determine if there is any evidence of abuse going on in the child’s home. 

Weidner said the Lightford measure would not do away with the investigation but ensure that they are done fairly and accurately. 

“There is a role for medical professionals in the investigation of child abuse, but the current policy and practices really put innocent parents at a disadvantage,” Weidner said. 

Several state agencies, including DCFS, have drawn criticism for improper care of patients in their facilities. Weidner was asked about those other issues overtaking the issues that deal with investigations of abuse. 

Weidner said it is about the families. 

“It is a very niche issue, but it is not a niche issue to those families involved,” Weidner said. 

The measure currently sits with the Senate Assignments Committee.

By ANDREW HENSEL for the Illinois Radio Network

Region: Southern,Local,City: Carbondale,Region: Carbondale

via Local News – Newsradio WJPF

March 20, 2023 at 08:13AM

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