COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Officials said the DCFS Director of Illinois Marc Smith was held in contempt of court for the 12th time Thursday for failing to place a child in direct violation of court orders.

Officials with the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, said this is the 12th time the director has been held in contempt. This specific order involves a 15-year-old girl whom DCFS has kept locked up in a psychiatric hospital where she has been ready for discharge since January 14th, 2022.

Thursday, pursuant to a motion filed by Judge Patrick T. Murphy of Cook County Juvenile Court held Marc Smith in contempt of court and ordered fines of $1,000 per day. Fines for this order will begin July 28th.

In February the court ordered Smith to place the girl by 5pm on March 5th. He failed to comply.

On May 12th, DCFS stated to the court she would be by June 15th. Thursday, DCFS stated that the girl would be placed during the week of July 25th.

The girl has been in a psychiatric hospital for more than 170 days since she was able to be discharged. The court found the director in contempt of court.

And there are more cases involving children being held. First contempt involved a girl held in a psychiatirc hospital for more than seven months at 8 years old. The second involved a 13-year-old boy kept in a “temporary shelter” in Mt. Vernon. Third contempt involves a 17-year-old boy DCFS locked in a psychiatric hospital for more than four months when it was not necessary. Fourth involves a 16-year-old girl that DCFS moved back and forth 25 times within two months. They placed her in hospitals, emergency shelters, a shelter in Indiana, two temporary foster homes, and she was also locked up unnecessarily in a psych facility.

The fifth–involves an 11-year-old girl. Again, ready to be discharged from a mental facility and held for more than 10 months. She was 10 when able to be discharged.

Sixth contempt–another girl, 15, held in a psychiatric hosptial for three months. DCFS determined she needed a specialized foster home, but failed to place her.

Seventh–16-year-old boy spent more than 375 days in a “temporary” shelter and they did not meet his highly specialized needs giving him cognitive delays.

Eighth–14-year-old girl that DCFS put into 21 different placements. These included DCFS offices, hospital emergency rooms, emergency foster homes, and again a locked psychiatric hospital for more than two months past discharge date.

Ninth–15-year-old boy again kept in a psychiatric hospital where he has been ready for discharge since January 31st, 2022. On March 14th, DCFS was ordered to have the boy placed by March 25th. They failed to get a neuropsychological exam for this boys special needs.

Tenth–A 13-year-old girl kept locked in a psychiatric hospital ready for discharge since March 21st of this year. The court ordered DCFS to place the girl by April 21st. The director failed and the girl still remains locked in the facility. DCFS also failed to provide needed trauma focused therapy to address her history of sexual abuse.

Eleventh–An 11-year-old girl that has been in DCFS’ care since she was 5. During the six years in their care: she has been abused at foster homes, placed in emergency foster homes, psychiatric hospitals, residential placements, shelters, and emergency rooms.

Charles P. Golbert, Cook County Public Guardian said, “All of these contempt findings involve real children who are suffering. This is time that the children will never get back. Most of these children spend many major holidays – Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, their birthdays – languishing, warehoused in wholly inappropriate and harmful settings. The child involved in the seventh contempt finding actually spent every single one of these holidays in a “temporary” shelter unable to meet his needs.”

Last year DCFS forced 365 children to stay in locked psychiatric hospitals for an average of 55 days when not needed. Golbert went on to add, “When children are psychiatrically hospitalized, they are locked up indoors for most of the day, can go outside for only about an hour a day, do not receive schooling, fall
behind in school, have greatly limited ability to have contact with family and friends, cannot
participate in sports or recreational activities, cannot have phones, and observe other children
going through psychiatric episodes and learn new problematic behaviors.”

“It’s hard to think of a better way to say to a child, “You don’t matter,” than forcing the
child to languish for months and months on end in a locked psychiatric hospital, temporary
shelter, or shuffled around among dozens of inappropriate settings including offices because
your guardian has nowhere to place you.”

The shortage of placements has existed for seven years after DCFS abolished 500 residential and group home beds. None of these beds have been replaced. Golbert said, “shortage crisis has become so extreme that, for the first time in the more than three decades that I’ve been practicing in Juvenile Court, the court created a special consolidated docket where one judge is now hearing all of the cases with kids stuck in locked psychiatric hospitals, “temporary” shelters, offices, and the like. This docket has become known as the “placement crisis docket” and is sometimes also referred to as the “stuck kids call.”

Golbert said the not needed psych stays cost the taxpayer 6.2 million. Adding, “Similarly, “temporary” shelters are also far more expensive than residential or foster care. For example, regarding the 13-year-old stuck in the “temporary” shelter nearly five hours away in Mt. Vernon for nearly five months who is the subject of the second contempt finding – that shelter costs the taxpayers $9,700 per month. The child needed specialized foster care, which costs $1,400-$1,700 per month. All of this is money that could and should be used to expand placement capacity.”

“Our children are our future. They deserve better. It’s long past time for DCFS to start addressing its crisis-level shortage of placements and its utter state of dysfunction.”