The Department of Children and Family Services is sounding warnings it will cut services that keep kids from having to go into foster care as a consequence of an $85 million budget cut.
Gov. Pat Quinn says he's unhappy with the cuts, and hinted that he'll do something to try to prevent them when he acts on the budget later this month.
"The cut of $50 million to that budget of that very, very important department that guards and safeguards our children, is just not acceptable," the governor said.
DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlow says the reduction means 12 percent of its employees could be laid off – as many as 375 employees.
"Very important work that protects children and prevents them from having to enter foster care, such as child abuse prevention, such as serving families that are still together, still intact, may have to be significantly reduced, nearly eliminated in order of us to meet this server budget cut from the General Assembly," Marlow said.
But legislators on the House committee in charge of funding for human services stand by the reductions. Committee chair Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, says legislators cut foster care, adoption, and group home care as little as possible. Instead, she says, they cut how much DCFS can spend on personnel after learning employees received what she called "significant" raises against the General Assembly's wishes.
"The committee was not convinced that the department was managing its resources in the best interest of children,” she said. “It was a little disappointing to some of our committee members who vocalized that the department needs to restructure its priorities. There were a lot of very unhappy committee members.”
DCFS says it had no choice because the raises were contractually guaranteed, but Quinn has made the opposite argument in court, after last summer cancelling raises guaranteed to employees of other state agencies.