Child deaths cause lawmakers to check DCFS

Illinois Capitol News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The recent deaths of children in the state have lawmakers searching for answers to fix DCFS.

2-year old Ta’Naja Barnes was found dead in Decatur in February. Police say her parents were abusive and neglectful.

Now, lawmakers are looking into how to keep children safe when the ones who are supposed to take care of them are the ones causing them harm.

For years, lawmakers say a focal point for DCFS has been keeping families together. But now, lawmakers and family members of children who have died at the hands of abuse say it’s time to put children first by any means necessary.

“Our main priority must be what is best for the child, even if that means removing him or her from their parents.”

Representatives and Senators from both parties agree: DCFS needs reform on several levels.

“Today is only the first step in many to come. We are forming the DCFS Child Welfare Reform Caucus in filing Senate Bill 193 to carefully move forward with reforming our system and not providing a knee-jerk reaction to the latest tragedy. There are other sets of eyes on these cases that are so difficult. It’s going to tell us a lot about what is going on in these communities and the judgment that is being used and whether or not we need more support for these families if we are going to choose to keep them intact.”

“If she would have been here or been with one of her other family members, she wouldn’t be where she is today.”

Ta’Naja Barnes’ great-grandmother, Sherry Logan, talked about her granddaughter’s death. DCFS had been involved with Barnes’ family several times. Logan says DCFS should not only take a thorough look into cases of kids living with abusive parents, she says the agency needs to follow up more often.

“All these babies that are dying, people taking their babies, into a field away from their house and dropping them off. Just because they are dead, they beat them to death or something. That is sad. It’s sad that DCFS isn’t on them. Be on them!”

Lawmakers say the amendment in the bill will also offset incentives for caseworkers who are encouraged to reunite families putting children at risk. The bill is currently making its way through the adoption and child welfare committee at the Capitol.

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