DCFS Director Marc Smith held in contempt of court for ‘unprecedented’ ninth time

Illinois DCFS Director Marc Smith talks to the Gray TV Illinois Capitol Bureau during a...
Illinois DCFS Director Marc Smith talks to the Gray TV Illinois Capitol Bureau during a sit-down interview last summer.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 5:02 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - For the ninth time, the Cook County Juvenile Court has haled the embattled DCFS Director Marc Smith in contempt of court for keeping a youth in a medical facility longer than necessary.

This charge, like the others before it, comes with a fine of $1,000 per day to the agency for every day the child continues to remain in the facility. The 15-year-old boy was left in a locked-psychiatric hospital since January 31, 2022, when he was approved for discharge. Cook County Public Guardian Chuck Golbert also alleges in the finding that the department has not conducted the proper tests need to determine the boy’s psychological needs.

Several previous cases have involved similar stories, where eight other children have been left in facilities ranging from months to over a year.

The children, Golbert argues, are left in facilities without proper academic or social enrichment. Locked psychiatric facilities keep them in their rooms, meaning the children can’t attend school or see their friends and family.

“DCFS’s placement shortage crisis has become so extreme that, for the first time in the more than three decades that I’ve been practicing in Juvenile Court, the court created a special consolidated docket where one judge is now hearing all of the cases with kids stuck in locked psychiatric hospitals, “temporary” shelters, offices, and the like,” Golbert said. “This docket has become known as the “placement crisis docket” and is sometimes also referred to as the “stuck kids call.”

The reason for the children not getting placed is due to a reduction in the number of residential beds available seven years ago. In 2015, DCFS got rid of 500 residential and group home beds for children. In the years since they have added more beds, but also lost them in return, resulting in either no growth or further reduction.

“We are working aggressively addressing the decades-long challenge of a lack of community resources and facilities for children with complex behavioral health needs, which has been exacerbated by an increased demand in social services in recent years,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement.

DCFS has requested the fines be stayed until May 5. The agency has made a similar request before and placed the child in the grace period before the $1,000 daily fines began.

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