Lawmakers at odds over details in bill to protect caseworkers

Illinois Capitol News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– Suggestions to fix the Department of Family Services (DCFS) have been rolling in all year following the deaths of over a hundred children with ties to their system. Lawmakers are considering a bill House members said will ensure the safety social service workers is taken seriously. It unanimously passed the House but Senators said they want to make sure the bill does not add unnecessary protections.

“Without protections in place, how can we expect them to go into dangerous situations and protect our children to the best of their ability,” Savanna Republican Tony McCombie said.

Representative McCombie is calling for the Senate to move on a bill that would bring about an aggravated battery charge to people who knowingly cause harm to case workers. McCombie said opponents argued about children still in the system who could act out against social workers.

“This is not for the case of a child who strikes out or kicks that is not how the statute reads, that is not how the bill reads. That is not the case at all. This is for the case where the gentleman, well not gentleman, this animal pulls a woman out of her car and knowingly beats the crap out of her and kills her. That is what this case is about,” McCombie said.

Senators agree workers need protection, but they said this bill goes too far. “We all have this shared goal of protecting the DCFS frontline workers but the bill as proposed doesn’t do that. It allows for individuals up to and including the director of DCFS, people who never see daylight to be covered by this enhanced penalty. That is certainly not what we are looking for,” said Senator Elgie Sims of Chicago.

The call to move the bill comes after DCFS worker Pam Knight was assaulted while doing a welfare check on a two-year-old in Chadwick. She died after the attack. Her family is encouraging senators to move now before another worker gets hurt.

“When [senators] go home tonight and sit down at the dining room table, their spouse will be there. This law would, maybe, have brought my spouse back to me so when I sit down tonight, she would be there with me,” Pam’s husband, Don Knight, said.

The bill is currently in the Senate’s criminal law committee.

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