SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich today appointed a high-level task force to thoroughly review problems associated with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
The members of the task force will include experts in youth services, social work, child abuse prevention and family issues.
The governor said that the task force will be assigned to provide a thorough assessment of the state’s current child welfare needs as well as current conditions within the department that impact whether those needs are being met.
Such factors include the state’s policies, the methods and models of delivery used by DCFS.
Blagojevich said that the appointment of the task force is part of his ongoing efforts to reform state government.
“Since taking office three weeks ago, and long before that, I have discussed the need to bring comprehensive reform to how state government operates,” he said.
He said that his goal is “to find ways, within every state agency, to improve the service we provide to the people of Illinois.”
“Nowhere is that as necessary as it is within the Department of Children and Family Services,” he said.
The governor’s announcement comes in the wake of a number of high-profile cases that have “upset and angered parents and people across Illinois—including me,” he said.
The governor is also seeking from the task force recommendations for changes and how to implement them.
The governor gave the task force 60 days to complete its work.
The task force members include:
* Sister Catherine Ryan, an attorney who has worked for the Cook County State’s Attorney on issues of juvenile placement.
* Judith Walker Kendrick, who has served in local and federal government positions and is a consultant to a coalition of child care programs.
* Deborah Ann Daro, an accomplished scientist in child development and child abuse prevention.
* Gilbert Walker, who has worked extensively with children who live in the inner-cities.
* Dr. Daniel Cuneo, a psychologist, who currently serves on a panel of volunteer professionals who review cases of any infant deaths that occur within DCFS.
* Patti Blagojevich, the First Lady of Illinois, who will focus on issues related to adoption and foster care.
* Bryan Samuels, who has worked on efforts in several states to improve the delivery of public services, and who will convene the panel.
The group will work closely with the Deputy Chief of Staff for social services, Louanner Peters.
In addition, Blagojevich announced the appointment of Sal Diaz to be the head of child protection within DCFS.
Diaz, a 20-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, currently teaches classes within the Chicago City Colleges to other law enforcement agents. The courses focus on how to investigate child abuse cases and the Juvenile Justice Act. He is a former child abuse investigator at DCFS and a juvenile court probation officer.