The head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services resigned his position Friday afternoon. A press release from Gov. Pat Quinn’s office says Director Richard Calica has been diagnosed with cancer.
In a statement, Quinn wrote that Calica has taken DCFS in the right direction in his two-year tenure as head of the department.
“My prayers are with Director Calica and his family during this very difficult time,” Quinn wrote. “Director Calica has taken this agency in the right direction and he always put the safety of our most vulnerable children first. We are deeply grateful for his dedicated public service, which has saved countless lives.”
The governor credits Calica for adding 138 DCFS investigators to check in on families. He also says Calica helped reduce the caseloads for workers, from as high as 20 to nine.
“This has been the most exciting and rewarding time of my career in child welfare,” Calica wrote in the governor’s press release. “The reforms that we’ve put in place will maximize this agency’s ability to ensure the safety of children who are at risk of abuse and neglect for years to come.”
Calica’s resignation comes on the heels of recent media reports on the quality of investigations DCFS case workers conduct when there’s a report of abuse or neglect. Even though Calica had recently had surgery, he still sat down with WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times for an interview as part of our investigation into child deaths in Illinois. That report found more kids have died even though DCFS had been in contact with their families.
DCFS has had several directors in recent years. Calica replaced Erwin McEwen in 2011, after allegations that McEwen’s friend was awarded $18 million in state grants, but did little to no work for the money.
The current chief-of-staff at DCFS, Denise Gonzales, will serve as acting director of the agency.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @tonyjarnold.