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July 21, 2012 permalink
In a large cutback 600 employees of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will be laid off.
600 will get layoff notices at DCFS
375 positions to be eliminated, other positions realigned to bolster front-line staff
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services began issuing layoff notices to 600 employees on Friday.
The agency is trying to reduce its workforce by a net of about 375 positions and still meet its obligations to care for abused and neglected children and provide other services.
The department said the job eliminations were forced by the General Assembly, which cut $86 million from the department budget this fiscal year.
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to return $50 million to DCFS by reallocating it from the Department of Corrections budget. Lawmakers, who designated that money to keep open prisons and juvenile detention facilities Quinn wants to close, would have to approve the change.
“This is a people business, and I understand the deep impact this has on the many people who will lose their jobs,” DCFS director Richard Calica wrote in a letter to his staff. “It leaves a mark on all of us. … In a field where we strive to help others in need, we now find ourselves in need of understanding and support.”
Calica intends to realign positions in order to staff the front lines, including opening 250 direct service vacancies in the department’s casework and investigations areas. The reassignments are needed to comply with a federal consent decree limiting the number of cases each investigator is required to handle.
“We will be working with the union throughout to see that affected employees understand their options and are able to act on them,” Calica wrote.
Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said DCFS’ headcount has been cut in half since 2001.
“Past cuts already left DCFS employees struggling to keep pace,” Bayer said. “
Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the department, said no estimate is available of how many positions in Springfield are affected. There will be layoffs in Springfield, Marlowe said, but some of the front-line positions will also be based in the city. AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said he expects more than 20 layoffs in Springfield.
Funding in doubt
The positions to be cut mostly deal with programs aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect, Marlowe said. These are programs where the department has determined that it needs to intervene, but which are not severe enough to go to court to ask that the children be removed from their homes.
“We’re having to greatly reduce the scope of those,” Marlowe said.
The layoffs are to take effect Sept. 30, Bayer noted.
AFSCME also wants the legislature to restore funding for four prisons Quinn wants to close, but that can be done only if the $50 million Quinn wants to use at DCFS stays with the Department of Corrections.
Rep. Sara Feigenholz, D-Chicago, chairwoman of the House appropriations committee that deals with DCFS, said she it’s too early to predict whether legislative leaders will agree to shift the funding.
“Every agency suffered and has for the last two years,” she said. “This is not an isolated situation. I just think that this has been a devastating year.”
Governor’s proposed budget: 2,961
Headcount after the layoffs: 2,586
Source: State Journal-Register
Addendum: Plans reversed in October.
DCFS layoffs averted — for now
State agency optimistic that legislators will restore some funding in veto session
Nearly 300 workers slated to be laid off from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services won a reprieve Thursday amid high hopes that the struggling agency can recoup funding from the state Legislature.
A nearly $90 million cut in the agency's $1.2 billion budget had earlier prompted administrators to announce the elimination of staff caseworkers from an intervention program that attempts to keep troubled families together.
In separate messages to DCFS staff Thursday, agency director Richard Calica and union leaders confirmed that half of the budget cuts are expected to be reversed when the Legislature returns Nov. 27 for its fall veto session.
There still is no guarantee of that, and the revenue source is uncertain, but Calica said he hopes no employees will be laid off and his plan to reorganize the agency to better protect at-risk children will proceed. Some 100 unfilled positions, equaling a 6 percent reduction, still will be eliminated.
"Members of the General Assembly from both chambers and both parties have expressed support for this approach," Calica wrote to staff. "The past few months have been trying for all of us, and I appreciate the professionalism you've shown in the face of such uncertainty. With the support of the General Assembly, a solution is now in sight."
Last year, 14,000 children remained in their homes after their parents received help through the intact family services program, according to DCFS data. DCFS workers handled 80 percent of the cases, while the remaining 20 percent were referred to contractual private agencies.
The Tribune has reported that the DCFS cuts would have meant at least 1,500 fewer families would be eligible for the program, a 33 percent reduction that critics argued would result in higher foster care rolls.
In recent months, the newspaper also has documented the agency's clogged hotline and staggering investigative caseloads that have led to overdue and sloppy child-protection investigations. Questions have been raised about whether some recent child-abuse deaths could have been avoided.
The seniority-based layoffs were expected to begin this month. DCFS officials said that if the money is restored, the agency through a reorganization plan could beef up its child-protection investigative unit by 138 workers and reduce caseloads to below the mandated ratio of about 12 cases to 1 worker.
In June, Gov. Pat Quinn pushed to stave off the layoffs by diverting some savings from his plan to close some state prison facilities. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents DCFS and prison employees, argues that the prison closings are unsafe and suggests looking elsewhere for the money.
Though state revenues have increased beyond projections, lawmakers such as Rep. Sara Feigenholtz said so have Illinois' bills. The North Side Democrat said that while lawmakers still have many questions for Calica to ensure the money isn't wasted, their ongoing discussions are encouraging.
"I think it's still 'wait and see,'" said Feigenholtz, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee for Human Services. "We never like to lay anyone off, but we need to ensure the department does due diligence with the taxpayers' dollars and makes good service decisions on behalf of children."
Source: Chicago Tribune