Illinois DCFS director held in contempt of court — again

This latest contempt order involves the DCFS shuffling a 16-year-old girl around 25 different times in various placements that include hospitals, temporary foster homes and shelters — including one in Indiana.

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Marc Smith

Marc Smith, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, was held in contempt of court for the fourth time in six weeks.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The top official for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was held in contempt of court for the fourth time in six weeks by a Cook County Juvenile Court judge for failing to place a child appropriately.

This latest contempt order involves a 16-year-old girl shuffled 25 different times to various placements, including hospitals, shelters and temporary foster homes.

As a result, Judge Patrick Murphy held DCFS director Marc Smith in contempt of court Thursday and released the written order Friday evening. Smith was fined $1,000 per day, the fourth time since Jan. 6. Each contempt order has been for a different child.

The 16-year-old girl was placed in DCFS custody in September when she was ready to be discharged from a locked psychiatric hospital, but the agency allowed her to remain at the hospital until November. She then was moved around from foster home to hospitals on a nearly daily basis. She even spent time in an Indiana shelter.

Each of the contempt orders were issued after motions were filed and litigated by the office of Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert, which represent the county’s most vulnerable.

“To give a flavor of DCFS’s extreme placement shortage crisis, last year alone DCFS forced 356 of its children to languish in locked psychiatric hospitals unnecessarily for an average of 55 days — nearly two months — each,” Golbert said. “This adds up to more than 50 years of wasted children’s lives in just a year.”

William McCaffrey, spokesman for DCFS, said the agency is working with its network of providers and foster parents to provide the appropriate level of care.

“The Department of Children and Family Services is dedicated to keeping children safe and strengthening families,” McCaffrey said. “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.”

Golbert said the ongoing shortages DCFS is facing is nothing new and has been the case for seven years, ever since it “abolished 500 residential and group home beds” that have not been replaced.

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