A Cook County public guardian is suing Illinois child welfare officials for allowing a foster child to remain confined to a juvenile detention facility after being ordered released. This problem is getting worse. Researching the Illinois Answers Project Found last year.
At stake is the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, which is trying to find appropriate places for children with behavioral health and emotional problems that often stem from a history of serious abuse and neglect. It’s something you can’t find.
A federal lawsuit seeking class action status states, “Children in juvenile prisons are confined to solitary confinement for most of the day, have limited opportunities for exercise, and are subject to unnecessary violence and abuse.” Additionally, DCFS is unable to provide the clinically appropriate mental health treatment and educational services they need, which is critical for children suffering from trauma and instability. It’s a great resource.”
“Holding children and young people in juvenile prisons when they don’t need to is cruel, abnormal and a violation of the constitution and the law,” Public Guardian’s Charles Golbert said at a press conference Thursday. “This is a grave attack on the civil rights and human rights of children . Schooling is disrupted and we often fall behind in school.”
Jania Kane, 18, a DCFS youth, “suffered” for 166 days at a Cook County Juvenile Detention Center after a judge ordered her release, according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, his grandmother died, and Kane’s lack of contact with his caseworker left him unable to attend the funeral and his mental health deteriorated.
The experience was “horrible,” she said Thursday.
“I felt a lot of emotions, anger and sadness,” Kane said. “I feel like no one cares about me . [they] put me in another bad situation. ”
Illinois Answers research shows a steady rise in the number of Illinois foster children detained for weeks or months after a judge orders their release from jail. A total of 73 foster children have been confined to Cook County juvenile detention centers for weeks or months without being charged during 2021, according to an analysis of the court and his DCFS records.
This is up from 49 similar cases in 2019.
In an interview last year, the head of the Department of Children and Family Services, Mark Smith, acknowledged the problem but defended his approach.
“Yes, these numbers are increasing because of the increasing severity of the needs of children in Illinois,” Smith said last May about the inappropriate placement of children.
His agency is forced to house young people in juvenile prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and shelters due to the lack of safe alternatives.
DCFS Director of Communications Bill McCaffrey said in an email to Illinois Answers on Thursday: This effort has helped in recent years to reduce the number of young people who remain in the judicial system past their release date. Due to pending litigation, we are unable to comment further. ”
Rovey and Rovey’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth, representing Golbert in the case, held Gov. JB Pritzker responsible for the improper detention issue. At a press conference on Thursday, Ainsworth said Pritzker “has allowed this problem to escalate within DCFS for years.
“It’s time to be accountable,” said Ainsworth. “Governor Pritzker needs to act because the solution is so simple: we need more homes for our children.”
A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Ainsworth did not provide a monetary amount, but the lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for all foster children improperly detained.
As part of last year’s investigation, Illinois Answers reporters obtained court clearance to examine dozens of classified juvenile court files, interviewed numerous agency employees, and investigated child placement and worker We dug up several years of internal data on the number of cases.
The 15-year-old foster child, who was charged with stealing someone’s backpack at a South Side bus stop, has been incarcerated at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center for seven months since his release date in 2020. show.
“Being in juvenile hall makes me feel worthless and depressed,” he wrote in a two-page letter to the judge overseeing his case in 2021.
This problem, WBEZ survey in June.
David Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. His work focuses on raising the voices of those who have been ignored in life-threatening government failures.
Rachel Hinton was the chief political correspondent for the Chicago Sun-Times before joining the Better Government Association in January 2022.
https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/1/19/23563128/state-officials-sued-for-allowing-foster-children-to-languish-in-juvenile-detention State Authorities Sued for Allowing Adopted Children to Torment in Minor Detention