The report from Illinois Auditor General William Holland found that the agency failed to investigate in a timely manner more than 300 allegations of child abuse and neglect in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. While the number of reports represented less than 1 percent of total cases, the finding was compounded by the department’s untimely determinations of abuse and neglect in 6 percent of those cases.
“Failure to make timely determinations of reports of abuse and neglect could delay the implementation of a service plan and result in further endangerment of the child, and is a violation of the (Abused and Neglected Child Reporting) Act,” according to the report.
The finding was not new for the embattled state agency, which has had seven directors in three years and seen its budget slashed. The auditor general’s office first reported the delays in determining abuse and neglect cases in 1998.
DCFS agreed with all of the new audit’s findings, adding in its official response that it will “continue to make efforts to improve” and in some cases has already started making changes, according to the report.
Regarding the delays in initiating abuse and neglect investigations, the agency said that it will “make diligent efforts” to reach 100 percent compliance, and as such is rewriting some DCFS procedures.
The report also found that DCFS workers did not always complete reviews of child deaths within the 90 days required by law. Instead, in the cases reviewed by the auditor general, the average time frame was more than double that in 2013 and nearly that long in 2014.
In a number of the cases highlighted by the auditors, DCFS also failed to maintain complete child welfare case files, including basic records like medical and dental consent forms and the child’s photo or fingerprints. In 88 percent of those cases, child identification forms were missing. The report also noted the agency used outdated forms.
The problems continued when it came to the department’s financial oversight, with the report concluding that the agency “lacked adequate review procedures.” After the auditors discovered “errors” in some of the department’s financial statements, DCFS had to adjust its records by $4 million.
For its part, DCFS said it planned to “implement control procedures,” seek bids from “reputable accounting firms” and fill a vacant fiscal administration position with a full-time employee.
“DCFS is working diligently under the direction of acting Director George Sheldon with the support of Gov. Bruce Rauner to offer real, concrete reforms that correct the mistakes of past administrations so that audits like this become a thing of the past as our state moves forward,” DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach said.