SPRINGFIELD — The state agency charged with investigating child abuse claims continues to flounder when it comes to meeting deadlines for initiating and completing investigations, a new audit notes.

In a report released Wednesday, Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services saw a significant jump in the number of abuse cases that weren’t determined to be unfounded or credible within a required 60-day timeframe.

The audit found that 884 of nearly 65,000 allegations missed the deadline, compared to 115 of 63,000 the previous year. It was the biggest backlog since 2006, when more than 1,000 cases missed the deadline.

“Failure to make timely determinations of reports of abuse and neglect could delay the implementation of a service plan and result in further endangerment of the child,” Holland wrote in the audit.

The findings come as DCFS has grappled with a number of budget cuts in recent years. The $1.1 billion agency had about 103 fewer employees in 2012 compared to 2010.

But, beginning in January, a reorganization of the agency has resulted in 138 additional child abuse investigators.

Agency spokesman Dave Clarkin said there is currently a backlog of an estimated 300 cases.

“That’s largely because we’ve received a record number of suspicious child deaths this year, which take longer,” Clarkin said Wednesday.

The agency says it receives, investigates and acts upon a report of child abuse or neglect every five minutes, child sex abuse every two hours, and the death of a child by abuse or neglect every day and a half.

Clarkin said 99.6 percent of the cases are initiated within the 60-day time period.

In addition to failing to determine whether some cases are warranted in a timely manner, the agency failed to initiate investigations into every case within a 24 hour time period, the audit found.

For example, in 2012, the audit notes that 274 cases were not launched within 24 hours, up from 116 in 2011. That’s the highest level since at least 2003.

“Failure to respond to a report of abuse or neglect within 24 hours could result in further endangerment to the child,” the audit notes.

Holland also found the agency did not review child deaths in a timely manner

For example, in 2012, auditors found 60 of 85 reviews in 2012 were conducted an average of 158 days after the close of an investigation, instead of the required 90 days. In 2011, 100 or 127 reviews were conducted an average of 209 days after the close of an investigation.

Clarkin said the agency is aware of the delays, but is committed to making sure investigations are thorough.

“These investigations can take a long time,” Clarkin said.

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(15) comments

mixdown
mixdown

I would be willing to bet most of the "child abuse and neglect" complaints would be someone upset about a child getting a spanking or being allowed to play outside by themselves. Just gumming up the government with things that a generation ago everyone did (and should still do).

Luckycharm
Luckycharm

I think you're probably right!

nnya
nnya

Not all the time by any means but sometimes spanking is used because the parent is too lazy to do anything else. At the Bloomington library there will be parents sitting on the computers facebooking while having a very bored small child (stroller size to 5 or 6 years) with them. Then when the child understandably acts up because this parent hasn’t paid ANY attention to them the kid gets yelled at and/or smacked . The smacking is not abuse and neither is the yelling but it does say to the kid “mommy and daddy don’t give a rats butt about your needs. I know we are in a library with lots of things that interest you but I don’t care enough about you to move my big butt away from Facebook and tend to your intellectual or emotional needs” . It’s that kind of yelling and spanking that ticks me off when I see it. Don’t just ignore your kid at the library until he/she freaks out and then give them hell. Don’t grocery shop without talking to your child until he ticks you off. Try keeping them distracted with “what color is that apple?”. “very good! Now look for something blue!” kind of stuff. Interact with your kids. If a parent is an oblivious short tempered jerk who is too lazy to seek out varying discipline strategies then they’re going to raise someone who ends up just like them.

smile2
smile2

Not quick enough? Many times the calls to the dcfs hotline are unfounded and the children aren't checked on at all. Parents shouldn't be allowed to hit/spanking their children EVER!

jm2
jm2

Just how do you describe spanking?

Luckycharm
Luckycharm

Clearly you have no children...............:)

jm2
jm2

Hah! :) that, or they're probably not very well behaved!

Martin
Martin

Smile, you are out of touch, you and Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew have went to far in claiming children should never be spanked. It is one of the reason we have a lost generation or two. Children now days threaten their parents with DCFS or abuse allegations over spanking. Given, spanking should be reserved, and abuse should not be part of spanking, but a belt has an appropriate place in child discipline. It sends and immediate message, it resolves issues after the offenses and consequences have been explained. Should never be delivered when angry or by those that have issues of their own. Spanking is approprate, used to occur in school, and we would be better off if you philosophers didn't stead fastly believe that reasoning and begging alone always works. You can raise your children as you wish, and I will not insist that you spank them when the rage out of control in public or otherwise, and/or defy you at every turn, likewise don't tell me how to raise mine. Ironically, some courts see things exactly as you do, but will send your kids to juvenile prisons to be beaten and raped as demonstrated in a recent study of Illinois youth prisons. I think we were the 5th worse in the nation. If the children were kept in line at home they might not be in prison. Love should be the only reason to spake a child, and discipline being the result.

smile2
smile2

yes I do have a child who has had consequences from a very early age but I have never even thought of hitting "spanking" him. limits were set very early. I also work with abused and neglected children (over 20+ years) so please don't preach to me about how hitting a child in any manner is ok unless you are raising your child to be aggressive and have have self esteem.

smile2
smile2

yes I do have a child who has had consequences from a very early age but I have never even thought of hitting "spanking" him. limits were set very early. I also work with abused and neglected children (over 20+ years) so please don't preach to me about how hitting a child in any manner is ok unless you are raising your child to be aggressive and have have self esteem. I guess it would be ok for your supervisor/boss to smack you around if youneed up in the job.

Martin
Martin

Smile, you are part of the problem. Your 20 years experience has blinded you to spanking. You were preaching to us, the public, that spanking was not appropriate under any circumstance?? Correct? so who is preaching to who? Who is trying impose their narrow beliefs on others?? YOU. I have 35 years working wth children, and many of them could probably benefit from a spanking. Bless you for working with abuse children, but responsible spanking is not abuse. It conveys an immediate message that enforces serious directives. Clearly, you don't have as much experience as you think you do. Not having at your disposal a means of immediate enforcement creats other problems. Is it ok for police to use a taser? or would you burst on the scene and endlessly try to reason with a person or declare a time out?? Knowing all the options and consequence for misconduct a child may be reminded and deterred from some conduct or behaviors. Their is an appropriate time and place for spanking. You now speak of "SMACKING" how is that the same as "SPANKING" on the butt?? Smacking is in the area of vital parts such as "eyes, nose, ears, and even teeth" Clearly, a careful swat on the butt of a small child is within appropriate bounds. Older children 2-3 swift stripes on the middle butt with a belt can make yourself very clear about how you feel about certain conduct. Underwear and pants prevent any harm to the skin, less the reminder of a welt or two for an hour or two. This is not abuse, this is sometimes necessary as part of correction/adjustment. It is effective, immediate and summary discipline. NOT ABUSE.

jm2
jm2

I've raised two college-educated children - as children they were very well behaved and disciplined. They were given a spanking (a quick smack or two with an open hand on a clothed rear end) when necessary which was, if I remember, probably only a few times. They both learned very quickly what was acceptable and what was not. There is absolutely NO REASON (in my opinion) to not use spanking as a tool for teaching children how to behave properly. You need to know there is a DIFFERENCE between a spanking and that of hitting or smacking a child in the head or face or beating on a child - now that would be abuse!

smile2
smile2

Marten, your ignorance is very sad!

smile2
smile2

Martin, so which is ok? a swat on the butt or leaving welts on children as long as the welts disappear in an hour or two? Because of people like you I have job security. just got the record I'd rather have to find a new profession because kids weren't being abused. Hitting children leads to insecure adults.

SFCA
SFCA

I recently wrote DCFS about the departments shortcomings with investigations. You can find it on my foundations page. The direct link to the letter is www.stopfostercareabuse.org/Letter_to_IL_Attorney_General.pdf

My foundation, while very young, is aiming to put an end to abuse in foster homes across the United States.

Our contention is that private agencies, such as Lutheran Social Services, would benefit from large contributions to add funds to investigatory and preventative processes and measures.

Illinois has no business handling children's lives if they cannot meet investigatory deadlines or act in an orderly fashion.

Copied on the letter was DCFS Director Richard Calica (who interestingly enough went down to southern Illinois days after receipt of the mail), and Inspector General Meza.

Bless those children, those aged out, and those who never made it. They never stood a chance against their abusers, and Illinois was the least accountable of anyone. I hope they initiate a regulatory overhaul.

As we will have 501(c)(3) status, we can't engage in political activities, so we can only hope things change with the state agencies.

Maybe they should let the subcontractors who care manage the foster care system.

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