WBEZ | Illinois DCFS http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-dcfs Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Child-abuse, neglect deaths in Illinois remain high in DCFS-involved cases http://www.wbez.org/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-illinois-remain-high-dcfs-involved-cases-109545 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/WATCHDOGS-CST-012014-002_43704273-b_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Enoch A. Hayslett brought his 1-month-old son to a hospital emergency room in December 2008, saying the baby was constipated.</p><p>Instead, doctors found the infant had a broken femur &mdash; an injury Hayslett and the child&rsquo;s mother couldn&rsquo;t explain. So the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took protective custody of the baby and his two older siblings, and a Cook County judge ordered that all three children be placed in foster care.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Also read:&nbsp;<a href="http://voices.suntimes.com/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-in-illinois-remain-high-in-dcfs-involved-cases/NEED%20A%20LINK">DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths: 61 children, 61 stories</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Hayslett and their mother went on to have more children: a daughter, another son, then twin boys &mdash; all of whom lived with the couple in the south suburbs as they sought to regain custody of the three older children.</p><p>During that time, DCFS twice investigated complaints that Hayslett was abusing his children but found the allegations not credible, records show.</p><p>Then &mdash; a month after a child-protection investigator closed the second case &mdash; the 5-foot-10, 280-pound Hayslett was charged with beating one of his twin sons to death. The 20-pound boy&rsquo;s skull was fractured, and he had multiple bruises.</p><p>Authorities said Hayslett also abused the other twin and their toddler brother, too.</p><p>They arrested the Lynwood man in December 2012 and charged him with first-degree murder, among other charges.</p><p>Last Father&rsquo;s Day, Hayslett hanged himself at the Cook County Jail.</p><p>His 8-month-old son Lamar Hayslett was among 27 Illinois children to die from abuse or neglect in DCFS&rsquo; last reporting year after they or their families already had been involved with the agency, a <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ examination of newly released records from the DCFS inspector general&#39;s office has found. Five more cases were under investigation, those records show.</p><p>On Wednesday, the head of child-death investigations for DCFS Inspector General Denise Kane said that one of those five pending cases has now been determined not to have involved abuse or neglect. A second case remains under investigation, but not for abuse or neglect.</p><p>Still, the number of DCFS-involved abuse or neglect deaths could reach 30 for the third year in a row.</p><p>In the 2010 reporting year, there were 15 abuse or neglect deaths in which DCFS had had some involvement with the family within a year of the death, according to a <em>Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ investigation published in November.</p><p><em>Chris Fusco is a </em>Chicago Sun-Times<em> staff reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/fuscochris">@fuscochris</a>.&nbsp;Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><script src='//player.ooyala.com/v3/38f013a07e0458db1ee84d020e47cac'></script><div id="ooyalaplayer" style="width:620px;height:348px">&nbsp;</div><script>OO.ready(function() { OO.Player.create('ooyalaplayer', 'twaTQ3azo4VLlw3BvtNWWpWwpcodGHp8'); });</script><noscript><div>Please enable Javascript to watch this video</div></noscript><p>The spike in deaths to 34 in 2011, 34 in 2012 and 27 or more in 2013 has sounded alarms with state lawmakers and some child advocates, who say the agency and the private contractors it hires to monitor child safety aren&rsquo;t doing the job they should.</p><p>DCFS officials dispute that. They say the increase in reported deaths is largely the result of a policy change in late 2011, when the agency started pressing its investigators to discipline parents whose children had died as a result of unsafe sleeping conditions.</p><p>Still, in response to the Sun-Times/WBEZ reports, DCFS&rsquo; acting director, Denise Gonzales, ordered a review of all child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect between 2009 and 2013. That review revealed errors in the department&rsquo;s tracking of how many children statewide died from abuse or neglect, finding that 11 more children had died in that time than the agency had reported.</p><p>Of the 27 DCFS-involved abuse or neglect deaths reported for the 12 months ending June 30, 2013, 12 were caused by abuse and 15 by neglect, according to the Sun-Times/WBEZ examination of DCFS inspector general records.</p><p>Of the neglect deaths, 11 involved infants smothered or suffocated after being placed in dangerous sleeping conditions.</p><p>In many of those cases, the children died even though their caregivers had been trained on safe-sleep practices, records show. They included a 3-month-old girl who died after sleeping on a mattress with her father, who &ldquo;tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and prescribed benzodiazepines,&rdquo; according to the inspector general&rsquo;s case summary. A caseworker had provided the mother with a Pack &rsquo;n Play portable crib and saw the baby with the mother in August and October 2012. The baby died the following month.</p><p><strong>Among the 12 abuse deaths:</strong></p><p>● A 14-year-old autistic boy, Alex Spourdalakis, of River Grove, was found stabbed to death in his bed in June 2013. His 50-year-old mother and 44-year-old live-in caretaker lay unconscious next to him, &ldquo;having taken pills&rdquo; and &ldquo;leaving a letter explaining their actions.&rdquo; DCFS had opened a neglect investigation into his mother six months earlier but found the allegations not credible. The mother and caretaker survived and are now charged with murder.</p><p>● A 5-month-old girl, Angelina Rodriguez, of Chicago&rsquo;s Far North Side, died in April 2013, four days after being hospitalized with a skull fracture and severe brain swelling. Her parents both were charged with murder after her father admitted suffocating her. Three months before Angelina died, school officials called DCFS&rsquo; hotline to report her 6-year-old brother had &ldquo;marks and bruises on his face, neck and arms and after getting sick, he expressed fear of going home early.&rdquo; DCFS cleared the parents of wrongdoing because the child later told an investigator the marks were made by his 2-year-old brother.</p><p>● In a case of the death of a child whose teenage mother had been an abuse victim, 3-week-old Emonie Beasley-Brown was killed in August 2012 when her mother ran away from her South Side home, taking the baby to her boyfriend&rsquo;s house. When the police showed up, the mother hid in a crawlspace with the baby and her boyfriend&rsquo;s mother, who placed her hands over Emonie&rsquo;s mouth to keep her from crying. Emonie died two days later as a result of suffocation. Emonie&rsquo;s teenage mother was convicted of endangering the life and health of a child and sentenced to five years of probation. Her boyfriend&rsquo;s mother was convicted of the same charge and sentenced to four years in prison.</p><p>In January 2012, DCFS had determined that Emonie&rsquo;s mother had been abused earlier that month by her 17-year-old brother, who was a ward of the state.</p><p>DCFS officials point out that they have some level of involvement with about 60,000 families a year. And other child-welfare experts caution the agency shouldn&rsquo;t be judged solely on the fraction of children who die while they or their families are being monitored or under investigation by the agency.</p><p>Still, acting DCFS chief Gonzales says she&rsquo;s convened &ldquo;a team to read every case and tell me what happened. . . . What were the conditions that brought us to that child&rsquo;s death? Was there substance abuse involved? Was there domestic violence involved? Was this just a tired mom with her infant?&rdquo;</p><p>In the case of Lamar Hayslett, Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris says there were &ldquo;missed opportunities&rdquo; to stop the abuse. Besides the two abuse investigations against Enoch Hayslett that DCFS closed without finding wrongdoing, a Cook County judge was told in August 2011 of allegations that Hayslett had abused the three older children in foster care.</p><p>The judge left it to a private agency, Lutheran Social Services, to determine whether the parents should continue to have unsupervised visits with those kids. Those visits were temporarily suspended and then resumed, leading to more allegations from one of Hayslett&rsquo;s children that he was abusing them &mdash; complaints DCFS deemed not credible the month before Lamar died.</p><p>A DCFS spokeswoman says agency Inspector General Denise Kane &ldquo;is conducting a full investigation of this case&rdquo; and that officials &ldquo;cannot comment further pending that review.&rdquo;</p><p>Says Harris: &ldquo;The fact that there was a hotline call that was made just three months before Lamar died, in and of itself, which subsequently was &lsquo;unfounded&rsquo; a month before he died, is definitely troubling to me, and I question some of the investigator&rsquo;s work in terms of responding to the hotline call.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t just want to say &lsquo;If the caseworkers were doing their jobs.&rsquo; But if they had kept their eyes open to all of these multiple factors, maybe there could have been &mdash; maybe Lamar wouldn&rsquo;t have had to have died.&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 20 Jan 2014 01:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-illinois-remain-high-dcfs-involved-cases-109545 Layoffs may be avoided at DCFS http://www.wbez.org/layoffs-may-be-avoided-dcfs-103115 <p><p>A few hundred Illinois state employees who work with at-risk youth may not lose their jobs as expected. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had its budget cut earlier this year by $90 million.&nbsp;Now, it&rsquo;s expected to get half of that money back, which means the scheduled layoffs of 375 workers across the state may not happen.</p><p>The department works directly with families on cases involving child abuse and finds foster care or adoptive services for youth who need it.</p><p>A spokesman for DCFS, Dave Clarkin, said some of the 375 employees were middle managers and will have new jobs working with families more directly.</p><p>&quot;What that will allow us to do is to clear cases more quickly to figure out if children are at risk and get them the help they need or find them a safe place,&quot; Clarkin said.</p><p>The head of the department, Richard Calica, announced the cancellation of the layoffs in a memo. He called the shift in job descriptions a &quot;reorganization.&quot;</p><p>Meantime, a spokesman for the union that represents DCFS workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in a statement that there are concerns about the reorganization plan, but that members are &quot;relieved&quot; efforts are being made to find funding for these positions.</p><p>Legislators in Springfield still need to reallocate the money to prevent the layoffs, which could happen in the upcoming veto session. Although State Representative Sara Feigenholtz said it&rsquo;s not clear how the department will find the funding needed to keep the jobs.</p><p>&quot;There have been a lot of ongoing discussions about where we will find the sources to pay for some of these restorations and the answer to that remains unanswered,&quot; said Feigenholtz, who is the chairwoman of the Appropriations - Human Services committee.</p><p>She said DCFS has avoided budget cuts in the past because consent decrees had mandated a certain level of service from the department. Feigenholtz said legislators need to be diligent in finding out how the department would spend the money before a check is written.</p></p> Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/layoffs-may-be-avoided-dcfs-103115 Report: DCFS investigator caseloads too high http://www.wbez.org/story/report-dcfs-investigator-caseloads-too-high-96965 <p><p>A new media analysis finds caseloads for Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigators are too high.</p><p><a href="http://trib.in/Am1irs">The Chicago <em>Tribune</em> reports</a> Sunday that the biggest trouble spots are in Cook County, the counties around Chicago and in southern Illinois. The newspaper says its analysis found the department is violating a 1991 federal consent decree that aimed to set monthly limits on new cases for investigators.</p><p>Investigators should handle about two dozen cases at a time, but the newspaper's survey found they often have 40 or more cases.</p><p>DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe says it would be a mistake to attribute the recent deaths of two Chicago-area children to worker caseloads. Marlowe says hiring more investigators would solve the problem if that were the case, "and it won't."</p></p> Mon, 05 Mar 2012 15:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/report-dcfs-investigator-caseloads-too-high-96965 The tricky transition to adulthood http://www.wbez.org/story/tricky-transition-adulthood-93294 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-19/Ana Thresholds FInal.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>People between the ages of 18 and 25 are the most likely&nbsp;of any age group&nbsp;to experience mental illness. They’re also&nbsp;the least likely&nbsp;age group to get adequate services, and often have difficulty navigating the complex transformation into adulthood known as “the transition cliff.”</p><p>Ana lives in one of those unassuming buildings peppered throughout Chicago that don’t quite look like the homes and apartments surrounding them. These are assisted living facilities.&nbsp;She’s been living here with her cat, Snowball, and a handful of other adults with mental illness for a few years.&nbsp;</p><p>ANA: I turned 21 on a Sunday, and that Friday I was emancipated from DCFS. I had no guardian; I was my own guardian. I knew I wasn’t going to have anymore help. I was scared when I was put into my own apartment because thought I was going to end up doing something really bad to myself.</p><p>Ana’s diagnosis is borderline personality disorder, depression, chronic PTSD and schizoaffective disorder. Since she was 13, she’s bounced between dozens of hospitals and nursing homes. Ana has family in Chicago, but none she could turn to for help.</p><p>ANA: Unfortunately my dad doesn’t believe in mental illness so it’s kind of hard to talk to him. He doesn’t believe I need medication. He has a thing about throwing my pills in the garbage and I have to go scavenge hunting after them. It’s hard to make him comprehend I can’t help it – he thinks I do it on purpose.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-19/Marc Fagan Thresholds Final.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 568px; float: right; margin: 8px;" title="Dr. Marc Fagan leads a training on crisis management for young adults with mental health issues to adolescent and youth service providers. (Photo courtesy of Thresholds)">Ana says her dad didn’t believe her mom’s mental illness was legitimate, either. Her mom is schizophrenic.</p><p>ANA: Unfortunately she jumped off 7th floor building, and crushed her leg. She’s permanently in a wheelchair. I just learned this last year. My&nbsp;family kept that from me. Before that I thought my mom was dead.</p><p>Her mother is now living in an assisted care facility in Texas. Ana arrived at her facility with the help of Thresholds. Her supplemental security income – or SSI – pays the rent. She’s been doing well here, even holding down part time jobs at Radio Shack and Target. But she wants more.</p><p>ANA: I don’t want to be here such a long time, you know? There are people here who’ve been here 10 years, 13 years, you know? And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be here the rest of my life.</p><p>Mark Fagan is the associate director of youth programs at Thresholds. The non-profit mental health agency provides treatment and housing.</p><p>FAGAN: With our state in Illinois, we know that it’s increasingly very seriously difficult to get any kind of mental health services if you don’t have really good insurance or if you don’t have Medicaid.&nbsp;</p><p>He says even though the law says adulthood starts at 18, insurance and Medicaid coverage don’t necessary follow that marker.&nbsp;So Fagan says that young adults experiencing a mental health condition tend not to qualify for those services at exactly when they need it the most.</p><p>Adding to that problem is the fact that the mental healthcare system is designed for independent adults or for dependent children. There’s not much out there for those who fall in between.&nbsp;</p><p>Vanessa Vorhies is a researcher who works with young adults at Thresholds. She says that research shows that true adulthood actually starts around 30 years old.</p><p>VORHIES: You know if we think about any other developmental phase across a lifespan - this one is what I find is most interesting - is the amount of change. The young people tend to move a lot, they tend to be under a lot of stress because they have to pick college or a career or something. And you can become a parent. Also young people are most likely to get or develop serious mental health conditions during this time.</p><p>Because hormonal changes affect brain development, many disorders don’t physiologically show up until these in between ages. By the time these symptoms are identified, Fagan says the services that match with them don’t follow along, and that’s where we get into what we call a “transition cliff.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/RS4487_Marco and Corey Final-scr.jpg" style="width: 397px; height: 250px; margin: 8px; float: left;" title="Marco (left) and Corey both receive assistance from C4 Chicago - a behavioral health and social service provider. (Photo courtesy of C4 Chicago)">COREY: Being honest you know, independence is hard.</p><p>Corey is&nbsp;21 years old. He suffers from schizophrenia and lives with his family in Roscoe Village.</p><p>COREY: My family thought that it was like a phase or a funk - that it would go away eventually. But unfortunately it didn't happen and they decided I needed professional help.</p><p>Corey is lucky to have parents that recognized his illness and who still want him to keep living with them. Because many parents, after years of incredible difficulty raising a child with illness, are overwhelmed to the point of saying, “You know what? You’re 18 – you’re on your own.”</p><div><p>COREY: One of my pills was $400. Another was $200. Two of them were over $100. Pills are very expensive, that's why people need health insurance.</p><p>While his family offers emotional support, he says they’re not in a position to fully support him financially. Corey’s monthly cost of medication comes to nearly $1,000. And like so many navigating insurance beaurocracy, he had a lapse in services.</p><p>COREY: We have Medicaid, and then they sent me a notice in the mail that at 19 they cut me off my insurance, but they never gave me a chance to apply for my own medical card. I didn’t have insurance for a month and a half. I had to pay for my medications completely and medications are so expensive. I completely broke the bank, I had no money in my account whatsoever.</p></div><p>Shannon Garrison is a therapist working with Corey and many other young adults at C4 Chicago. She says she sees gaps in services like his all the time.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/RS4488_Shannon Garrison Final-scr.jpg" style="width: 395px; height: 287px; margin: 8px; float: right;" title="Shannon Garrison, a therapist at C4 Chicago (Photo courtesy of C4 Chicago)">GARRISON: I’m still trying to figure out how this process works because there doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason. I have quite a few clients that have the same mental health diagnosis, the same kind of delays or deficits in functioning and one has gotten approved for a medical card, and has gotten approved for SSI, but a kid in a similar situation can't get either one.</p><p>With this lack of medication and therapy, Garrison says young adults end up back in the hospital, or worse.</p><p>GARRISON: So it actually ends up costing more without these services because you're going to see a lot higher rates in psychiatric institutions and in unfortunately the criminal justice system.</p><p>Garrison’s program, just like the other rare programs like it across the state,&nbsp;lost a $100,000 dollar grant to fund their young adult services. They had been teaching scores of struggling youth everything from balancing a checkbook to job readiness. And it’s dealing with some of that daily grind that makes life so hard for people like Corey.</p><p>COREY: Ever since my mental disorder, when I’m stressed out, I get under pressure I do have little breakdowns. I get angry, I cry. I just feel like if I still went back to school I’m afraid I couldn’t finish because to this day I still crack down under pressure. &nbsp;</p><p>Both Corey and Ana have had it rough. But in a way, they’re fortunate – because they found help. Studies show that about one out of every five youth has a diagnosable mental health disorder. And of those – 70 percent never get treatment.&nbsp;Consider this: If one in five Chicago public school students had an undiagnosed mental disorder, there would be more than 57,000 ill children without mental health care in this city alone.</p><p>Corey and Ana’s lives illustrate just a few ways in which this phase of life is treacherous. Despite advances in medicine and therapy, the immense social stigma of mental health conditions remain immune to science. In considering everything, it’s easy to feel hopeless. But Mark Fagan, who we heard from a while back, says the very instability of this period is actually where there’s hope, too.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/RS4485_Vanessa and Ana Final.jpg" style="width: 388px; height: 244px; float: left; margin: 8px;" title="Researcher Vanessa Vorhies meets with Ana. (Photo courtesy of Thresholds)">FAGAN: Young adulthood is also a time where we’re able to have some pretty serious influence. &nbsp;You know often times their brains are not fully developed and that’s what’s great. Because we still have that opportunity to provide some influence in terms of both their biological structure as well as their social and emotional structure. So even though it’s an incredibly difficult time, it also provides us with a lot of opportunity for hope and support and for the ability to create healthy transitions along their lifetime.</p><div><p>What are your hopes for the future?&nbsp;</p><p>ANA: I want to become a social worker or therapist. I want to be someone that helps other people.</p><p>COREY: I don't want to throw my life away - I have dreams for myself.</p></div></p> Thu, 27 Oct 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/tricky-transition-adulthood-93294 State guardianship's role in caring for mentally ill kids http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-26/state-guardianships-role-caring-mentally-ill-kids-93502 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-26/flickr San Jose LibraryUSED.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some wards of the state end up in psychiatric hospitals like <a href="http://www.chicagolakeshorehospital.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Lakeshore Hospital</a>. Over the years, the <a href="http://www.state.il.us/dcfs/index.shtml">Illinois Department of Children and Family Services</a> has made great strides in finding homes for abandoned, neglected and traumatized kids. Some families, like the one profiled in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/adopting-fight-93364" target="_blank">Rehman Tungekar's piece</a>, choose to give up custody of their adopted children because they can't afford treatment for mental illness; but DCFS has little power of supervision once children leave the agency. When the <a href="http://www.uic.edu/uic/" target="_blank">University of Illinois at Chicago</a> issued reports that were highly critical of some of the region’s private psychiatric hospitals this year, DCFS was limited in what actions it could take. To learn more about the challenges facing the agency and its charges, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> was joined by the deputy director for the Division of Clinical Services at DCFS, <a href="http://www.state.il.us/dcfs/library/management_bio.htm" target="_blank">Cynthia Tate</a>.</p></p> Wed, 26 Oct 2011 15:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-26/state-guardianships-role-caring-mentally-ill-kids-93502 Adopting the fight: A family's effort to provide for their mentally ill child turns into a custody battle http://www.wbez.org/content/adopting-fight-familys-effort-provide-their-mentally-ill-child-turns-custody-battle <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-21/Daniel Hoy 2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>From their modest home in Ingleside, Ill., Toni and Jim Hoy draft a letter to their son, Dan. He last lived with them three and a half years ago.</p><p>Dan and his brother Christian are adopted. They joined the Hoys and their two biological children 15 years ago.</p><p>The adoption decision had been risky, especially given the children's troubled history.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-25/custody-crop.jpg" style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 325px; height: 421px; " title=""></p><p>"It was very chaotic," Toni explained, citing the boys' young birth mother. "There was prenatal substance abuse: alcohol and drugs. And there was post-natal physical abuse. Severe neglect where the children did not have food to eat. The neglect was probably worse than the abuse."</p><p>It didn't take long for Toni and Jim to see the childhood abuse manifest in the kids' actions. "Soon after, we realized, probably after two years of having them in our homes, even being untrained, these were not normal kid issues," recalled Jim. "But we had already brought them in our homes, and we made a promise to them that as long as they wanted to be here, they would always be a part of our family. And I've tried to always honor that promise to those children."</p><p>Christian had manic rages and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of nine. Medications helped stabilize him.</p><p>But Dan was getting worse. Around the time he reached the fifth grade, he exploded.</p><p>"There were times where I would pick him up from school, he would wait to get in the car where he thought no one could see him, and he would basically attack me, where he knew he could get away with stuff," Jim remembers. "He'd throw stuff at the drivers, he'd grab the steering wheel and direct us into oncoming traffic, and he thought it was funny."</p><p>Dan was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The Hoys tried all sorts of therapies to treat Dan's condition, including psychiatry and medications. But, according to Toni, "none of that worked either."</p><p>The Hoys tried between 20 and 30 different medications, but Dan's behavior became more unstable. His therapist recommended he be placed in a residential treatment center--a home with intensive therapy and specialized care.</p><p>But residential treatment is expensive. Despite looking everywhere, they were denied the family funding.</p><p>Treatment would cost over $10,000 a month. Their insurance wouldn't cover it, and neither would the Medicaid Dan received as part of his adoption package.</p><p>The Hoys scrambled to buy time while they looked for funding. But it all came to a head when Dan was 14.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>Violent behavior takes hold</strong></span></span></p><p>Jim described the situation in detail. "By that time, we had to have Danny residentially placed because he was trying to hurt the other kids--threatened to stab them, tried to push one of his siblings down the stairs."</p><p>They brought Dan to a nearby hospital for one of what would become countless psychiatric evaluations. By this time, hospital visits were becoming more frequent.</p><p>According to Toni, the situation was dire. "He was in the hospital, the hospital was wanting to discharge him. We were trying to stall, and we were asking if they'd hold him for just a couple of days. And they refused and told us that if we didn't pick him up they were going to call the [Department of Children and Family Services] child abuse hotline and report us for child abandonment, and yet DCFS told us if we brought him home they were going to try us for child endangerment for failing to protect the other children."</p><p>It was a lose-lose situation. "I thought at that time we were at our worst point, and it kept getting worse and worse and worse," recalls Jim.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/out-shadows" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-12/OutOfShadows-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 63px;" title=""></a></p><p><span style="font-size: 11px;">Out of the Shadows will explore the fractures in mental health care for children in Illinois and illuminate how it affects our youth.</span></p></div></div><p>The problems encountered by the Hoys are not typical. According to a report from DCFS, 95% of adoptions remain stable after five years. DCFS also offers a variety of post-adoption support services for families in need, but that offered little comfort to Toni.</p><p>"Ultimately, you know, it really came down to safety. When you really think about a vision of one of your children holding a knife to the other one's throat knowing that he's going to kill him, you know, can we go on living like that?"</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>Neglect charges and state red tape</strong></span></span></p><p>Taking the advice of a therapist, the Hoys decided to leave Dan at the hospital.<br> <br> "I went there and told Danny that I wasn't going to pick him up. I mean it was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life," Jim remembers through tears. "For the first time since I had made that promise to Danny and to Christian that we would always be there, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to fulfill it. It's very, very tough."</p><p>Toni and Jim relinquished custody of Dan and were charged with neglect. They later had the finding amended to no-fault dependency, which meant while legally they were still Dan's parents, the state of Illinois had guardianship rights over him. As such, he was able to access residential treatment at the expense of DCFS.</p><p>But not everyone was pleased with the decision.</p><p>Kendall Marlowe is a spokesperson for DCFS. "Adopted children are not returnable, like an ill-fitting garment," Marlowe says. "There's a reason they call it permanency."</p><p>Marlowe says that families seeking treatment like the Hoys place an undue burden on a department that was never designed to handle such requests.</p><p>"There have been academic studies that show that a high percentage of children who enter child welfare systems throughout this country, are, at the root cause of it, entering those systems because of unmet mental health care needs. And that's just not the best way to get help to children and families," says Marlowe.</p><p>Marlowe thinks families should be more vigilant about getting early preventative treatment through health service systems. "Broadly speaking, we will be more effective at delivering mental health services when it comes from the health service system. And that is not something that state will be able to conquer on their own. It will need a federal role to truly be effective."</p><p>But it was too late for the Hoys to seek preventative treatment at the time of the relinquishment. Over the next two years, Dan would live in two different residential centers. Toni and Jim ultimately regained custody of Dan, but he's in juvenile detention after an incident at his last residential center.</p><p>His future remains uncertain as the Hoys work towards obtaining funding for his treatment.</p><p>"You know, hope is like the air we breathe. I mean, to me I will never be out of hope for Danny. But at the same time, we gotta be somewhat...have reality and focus too," Jim says. "Right now, if anything, Danny is worse than when he went into the residential system. That being said, my family was made complete when Danny and Christian came into our lives. Like we said, from day one when they came, if they wanted us to be mom and dad forever, we would be. And we're here."</p></p> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/adopting-fight-familys-effort-provide-their-mentally-ill-child-turns-custody-battle Scandal allegations rock DCFS http://www.wbez.org/story/scandal-allegations-rock-dcfs-93226 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-18/RS3842_Women&#039;s Treatment Center5.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A businessman who was paid millions of dollars by the state of Illinois to help children, addicts and other needy people actually did little or no work for the money, investigators said Monday, and he got away with it partly because of his close relationship with "Mac" — Erwin McEwen — the recently departed head of the state's child-welfare agency.</p><p>State inspectors report that George E. Smith billed several government agencies for work done by non-existent employees, submitted fake papers, forged people's signatures, turned in fraudulent expense accounts and falsely claimed he was a psychiatrist. They also found that he administered psychotropic drugs to children without permission and without determining the proper dosages.</p><p>The report by the state's executive inspector general found that George E. Smith and his various organizations collected $18 million in state grants from 2008 through 2011. Smith often rebuffed questions from employees at the Department of Children and Family&nbsp;Services by saying he only answered to "Mac."</p><p>"Director McEwen created a situation that was ripe for a vendor such as Dr. Smith to enrich himself and inflate costs by billing for 'ghost' positions and billing various agencies for the same services," said the report, a result of an investigation by the DCFS inspector and the state's executive inspector general.</p><p>McEwen, who described Smith as his "personal friend and mentor," stopped cooperating with investigators in May, the report said, although state employees are required to aid such probes. He announced his resignation in August and left DCFS at the end of September.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday that McEwen "was given the opportunity to resign and he took that opportunity." Quinn, appearing at an unrelated news conference, did not take any other questions on the issue and did not explain why he didn't publicly disclose the reason for McEwen's departure.</p><p>Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Democrat, said the law barred Quinn from disclosing the misconduct. However, that law applies to early release of "investigatory files and reports" from the inspector general; it does not prohibit a governor from saying he believes a member of his Cabinet is mismanaging an agency.</p><p>Anderson said all contracts and grants to Smith were halted and that DCFS is taking steps to make sure nothing like this happens again. She could not describe the steps that are being taken.</p><p>McEwen and Smith did not return messages seeking their comment on the allegations.</p><p>Inspectors recommended the state seek criminal prosecution of Smith and take him to court in an effort to recover the grant money.</p><p>The misconduct went beyond DCFS, investigators said. Chicago State University, the Department of Human Services and the State Board of Education all "paid Dr. Smith grant funds with little or no effort to determine whether services were actually provided."</p><p>The investigators concluded that Smith:</p><p>— submitted the same documents as proof that he had done work on two different grants for two different agencies.</p><p>— claimed payment for therapists and consultants who apparently did not exist.</p><p>— described himself as a psychiatrist in official forms, even though he is not a medical doctor or psychologist.</p><p>— overstated expenses and collected reimbursement for improper expenses like liquor and cable TV.</p><p>"Dr. Smith's fraud continued for so long, in part, due to lack of DCFS oversight. At least one annual $450,000 DCFS grant awarded to him went completely unmonitored for years," investigators reported.</p><p>DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the agency has begun a review to determine how such a problem can be prevented in the future. He said the lax oversight found by investigators is "unacceptable."</p><p>Marlowe said DCFS will "take whatever measures are available to make the taxpayers whole." He said he could not comment on whether criminal charges are being discussed.</p><p>Marlowe also said he did not know yet what disciplinary steps would be taken against three DCFS employees, not including the former director, who were cited for misconduct in the report.</p></p> Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/scandal-allegations-rock-dcfs-93226