Report: DCFS delayed in starting, concluding some child abuse investigations

 
 
Updated 8/22/2019 4:45 PM

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took too long to begin and complete investigations for some reports of child abuse and neglect, according to a compliance examination report released Thursday.

The agency review, issued by the auditor general's office, discovered 23 findings of noncompliance in the two-year period ending June 30, 2018. Twelve were repeated from prior years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The state's child welfare system has been under fire since the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund of Crystal Lake, who prosecutors say was killed by his parents in April. The family's encounters with DCFS began before AJ was born and continued until months before his death.

A DCFS investigator and supervisor responsible for his case were placed on administrative duty. AJ's younger brother remains in the state's care.

The compliance examination shows an increase in abuse and neglect cases handled by DCFS from fiscal years 2015 to 2018, jumping from nearly 68,000 to more than 80,000.

In fiscal year 2018, investigations for 116 of 81,229 reported cases were not initiated within 24 hours of notification, according to the report. The previous year, 154 of 75,000 investigations were delayed.

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DCFS is given 60 days -- plus a possible 30-day extension if permitted -- to determine whether a report of child abuse and neglect is deemed "indicated" or "unfounded," per the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. The compliance examination found investigations extended beyond that period in 408 of 155,712 reports during the two-year period.

Additionally, a review of 60 child welfare, foster care and intact family case files found some were missing required documentation, and not all procedures were performed in a timely manner.

The three sets of violations have been occurring since 1998, according to the report.

DCFS did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

In the report, child welfare officials said human and computer error contributed to the investigation delays, which account for less than 1% of DCFS child abuse and neglect cases. Staffing levels also were listed as a factor in not completing investigations within 60 days.

The report warns that untimely responses and determinations of abuse and neglect cases could result in "further endangerment of the child" and delay the implementation of a service plan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

DCFS responded saying the agency will strive for 100% compliance. Weekly reports will be monitored, and missed mandates will be addressed through the disciplinary process, agency officials said.

Several other internal control violations were reported, including some related to untimeliness in the department in its requests for federal reimbursements, filing of accident reports, employee performance evaluations, and approval of contracts. Three findings were duplicated in a separate financial audit, also released Thursday.

In a management assertion letter in the report, child welfare leaders said they acted appropriately in the use of state funds, followed accounting and record-keeping procedures, and complied with applicable laws and regulations "other than what has been previously disclosed."

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