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Layoffs may be avoided at DCFS

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. Now, it’s expected to get half of that money back, which means the scheduled layoffs of 375 workers across the state may not happen.

The department works directly with families on cases involving child abuse and finds foster care or adoptive services for youth who need it.

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.

"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," Clarkin said.

The head of the department, Richard Calica, announced the cancellation of the layoffs in a memo. He called the shift in job descriptions a "reorganization."

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 "relieved" efforts are being made to find funding for these positions.

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’s not clear how the department will find the funding needed to keep the jobs.

"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," said Feigenholtz, who is the chairwoman of the Appropriations - Human Services committee.

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.

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