The head of Illinois' child welfare agency says the 2014 shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer has spurred more focus in how the agency handles cases of troubled youths.

Department of Children and Family Services Director George Sheldon says since police footage was released in November, agency workers have gone through thousands of pages of documents relating to Laquan McDonald, who was a state ward for most of his 17 years.

Sheldon says the agency has changed how workers review cases like McDonald's.

Loyola University School of Law

Illinois’s child welfare agency wants to do a better job taking care of its most troubled kids - and they have a plan.

The idea is that kids who have suffered abuse or witnessed violence would be placed with families with no more than two wards per home. The parents in these foster homes would get special training and at least one would stay home full time.


An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union says he’s hopeful Illinois’ troubled child welfare system will make some big changes.

The ACLU’s Ben Wolf is at the center of an ongoing class action lawsuit over how the Department of Children and Family Services treats kids in its care.

“For children with behavioral and psychological challenges, there just aren’t the services they need, and the result of that is they’re left languishing in correctional centers and shelters and all sorts of places that just aren’t the right place to spend your childhood,” Wolf said.

DCFS: 'We Have Stepped Up Our Game' On Runaway Kids

Jul 30, 2015

Illinois’s child welfare agency says it’s doing a better job of tracking youth who run away.

That’s after an audit showed the Department of Children and Family Services was failing to keep tabs on those young people.

George Sheldon, the head of the agency, says runaways tend to be teenagers who have low self-esteem with few relatives to turn to - and sometimes are victims of human trafficking.

“These are the perfect victims,” Sheldon said. “So I think we have stepped up our game.”


Illinois’s Department of Children and Family Services is telling contractors to be ready to make cuts if political leaders ever agree on a spending plan.

A federal judge told DCFS to provide the same level of services as it had in June, until the governor and legislators approve a budget.

But DCFS is pre-emptively telling its contractors to also get ready for 10 percent cuts - though there is no budget guiding that.

Ben Wolf is with the American Civil Liberties Union and has sued DCFS over its quality of care before.

New DCFS Director Struggling To Defend Cuts

Mar 18, 2015

The new director of Illinois’ child welfare system is having a hard time defending Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.

Democratic state senators are pushing the head of the Department of Children and Family Services to account for more than $100 million in cuts. Under Rauner’s proposal, 18-year-olds would be cut out of state services.


Last month, a WBEZ investigation found that the Department of Children and Family Services routinely leaves kids in jail for weeks, even months, after a judge says they should go home.

That’s after a recent Chicago Tribune series found the residential centers the state sends some kids to are unsafe and poorly monitored.

Ben Wolf with the American Civil Liberties Union says the root of both of those problems is a lack of mental health services for kids with special needs.

Could DCFS Child Abuse Deaths Move Rauner's Budget?

Feb 17, 2015

The number of Illinois children dying from abuse and neglect remains high even after the state’s child welfare agency had been involved with the child’s family, according to a new analysis from WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times. It comes as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has vowed to “transform” the state’s long-troubled Department of Children and Family Services.

DCFS Gets New Interim Director

Jan 19, 2015

The state agency charged with protecting vulnerable children gets a new interim director today. 

Governor Bruce Rauner is still searching for a permanent director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services. 

Cynthia Tate takes over DCFS today on an interim basis while a search for a permanent director continues. She replaces Bobbie Gregg - who hadn’t even been on the job for a year.

Gregg was the latest in a string of directors for the troubled agency - which has been criticized for neglecting youth in its care. 

Ward Of State Charged With Murder

Sep 24, 2014

A Joliet woman is scheduled to appear in a Will County courtroom Wednesday for the murder of her roommate.

It is believed to be the first time since 2009 that a ward of the State of Illinois has been arrested for murder.

Sources say Kadiedra Speed was adopted by parents who ended up abusing her.

And she spent time in psychiatric hospitals.

Court records show she got in several fights in her teens.

And lived in four homes in five years. Most recently, in Joliet.