Gov. Pat Quinn is doing a national search for the next chief of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the wake of the current director resigning after only a month on the job, the governor’s office said Thursday.
Arthur Bishop, 61, submitted his resignation letter Wednesday following Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ reports that revealed Bishop had a theft conviction and paternity case in his past. The resignation was announced shortly after the news organizations had posted a story in which a daughter, Erica Bishop, 27, questioned how Bishop could lead DCFS given that he’d shunned her for her entire life — even after DNA testing proved she was his daughter nearly 11 years ago, she said.
Quinn had picked Arthur Bishop, who formerly headed the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, to bring stability to an agency beset by financial scandal in 2011 and, more recently, furor over the abuse-and-neglect deaths of dozens of children who’d had contact with the agency before they died.
DCFS has had four different chiefs since the start of November. Richard Calica, appointed in the wake of the 2011 contracting mess, resigned that month as he battled cancer. He died in December.
Denise Gonzales, Calica’s chief of staff, was interim director before Bishop’s appointment last month.
The new acting director is attorney and social worker Bobbie M. Gregg, who has worked at DCFS for about a year. Gregg, 57, is now deputy director of the agency’s Bureau of Operations. Her appointment as interim director is to expire within 60 days.
Two key lawmakers called on Quinn to do a national search Thursday. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said such a search had already been launched.
“We’ve had a rotating door, unfortunately, in the last several months in this department. So it’s been hard for any leadership to gain traction,” said state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Issues Relating to DCFS. “I would encourage the governor to look within the state and outside the state for a director who brings some innovation along with the experience” to run the agency.
State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who chairs the House Appropriations-Human Resources Committee, said it’s important that Quinn’s next pick for DCFS boss be given a chance to run the agency long-term — regardless of whether Quinn loses the November election to a Republican.
“The right person would be the right person — whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a Whig or a Tory,” Harris said.
The next director, Harris said, also should be prepared to run the agency on a tighter budget, given an anticipated drop in state revenues next year.
“The safety net for these kids is going to become immensely frayed,” he said, noting DCFS needs “somebody who can steady the ship immediately.”
Chris Fusco and Frank Main are Chicago Sun-Times staff reporters. Tony Arnold is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.