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Pritzker proposing $147 million increase for DCFS in 2021 budget

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SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. JB Pritzker will give his second budget address on Wednesday. His office says the Department of Children and Family Services will be a top priority, increasing funding by $147 million for fiscal year 2021. That is a 20% boost from the funding DCFS received for the current fiscal year.

Increasing staff

Pritzker's budget proposal includes an 11% increase in staffing, bringing the department headcount to 3,056 employees. The increase includes 100 frontline staff covering areas of investigation, permanency, intact family services and case supervisors for hotline calls. The budget document also shows the department will add 11 employees to support the daycare licensing background unit, 7 individuals to work the DCFS hotline and an additional 5 supervisors to comply with the federal court consent decree supervisory ratios with more caseworkers. Pritzker's projected budget for the agency is roughly $1.46 billion.

The governor is also investing $21.2 million for work by private agency partners by including a cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase in their contracts. Pritzker's office says the private agencies are vital to the DCFS mission, providing over 85% of the child welfare workers in Illinois. The budget document says the COLA increases will help agencies invest in strategies to attract "the highly skilled workforce necessary to rebuild the child welfare system in Illinois." DCFS noted this increase will help reduce the 40% turn-over rate the private sector has struggled with. Pritzker says these additions are necessary to reduce caseloads for all employees.

Foster care, adoption and family services

The proposal includes $44 million from the general revenue fund for increases in foster care, adoption and family services. $25.9 of the investment will go downstate due to an increase in children coming into foster care. DCFS Spokesperson Jassen Strokosch says this is a significant move for the agency as the majority of cases were previously found in Chicago and other areas of Cook County. Strokosch added there has been a rise of cases across several metro areas downstate such as Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, and East St. Louis. $15 million would support families navigating through increased intact services. The agency says roughly $3 million has been set aside to support children in the adoption process.

Improving residential services

The Pritzker administration says DCFS lost nearly 500 residential beds and nearly 2,300 foster homes available to youth in care over the past five years. DCFS recently added 36 shelter beds, but the department is with private agencies to adjust the existing residential programs so unused beds can properly meet the needs of youth in care. Pritzker's budget proposal includes $6.1 million for institution and group home care, accounting for roughly 4% of DCFS budget. An additional $3 million has been earmarked for residential services construction grants to increase the bed capacity for youth in care.

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Mike Miletich

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