SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — A new ruling is removing some legal pressure from the Department of Children and Family Services.
The Cook County Circuit Court has ruled 12 times DCFS director Marc Smith should be held in contempt of court for failure to place kids stuck in in residential treatment centers or specialized foster homes. But in a ruling released Wednesday, the First District Appellate Court reversed or vacated these orders in 10 of these cases, finding the court orders were “erroneous”.
“The court could reasonably have been frustrated by the pace of Director Smith and DCFS in finding appropriate placements for the minors, the record belies the trial court’s written finding that Director Smith and DCFS “ignored” the court’s orders,” the ruling said.
The appellate judges found they could not hold anything against Smith before the court order and after the order, while the department did not find suitable placements, attempts were made by the department to place the kids and the reasons were out of the department’s control.
The ruling was still critical of the department and called their methods “seemingly inefficient and clearly ineffective.”
“Although we do not condone DCFS’s repetitive use of the same ineffective methods to place minors in these cases, we cannot say, in light of the record in each of these cases, that Director Smith ignored the trial court’s orders to find appropriate placement for the minors,” the ruling reads.
DCFS said they are pleased with the decision.
“As the Appellate Court described, DCFS has been actively working to secure clinically appropriate placements for these children,” Bill McCaffrey, DCFS director of communications, said. “Based on the record of DCFS’ actions, the Appellate Court found it was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to hold the agency in contempt. DCFS will continue working closely with the trial court to ensure children are placed as quickly as possible in clinically appropriate settings, as we have done with each of the youth cited in the contempt orders.”
The Department said the number of kids in their custody in medical care beyond necessity has fallen dramatically, by over 80% during the Pritzker administration.