SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today proposed a Fiscal Year 2005 budget for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) that more effectively provides high quality care to the state’s most vulnerable citizens - abused and neglected children.
“The proposed budget affirms the governor’s commitment to the children and families of this state,” said DCFS Director Bryan Samuels. “It also illustrates that by strategically allocating resources to programs and services that support our core mission and, by demanding more accountability, DCFS can operate effectively in a tough fiscal climate.”
The FY05 $1.4 billion dollar budget proposal includes $907 million from the General Revenue Fund, down from $930 million in Fiscal Year 2004. DCFS plans to more effectively use state dollars by reallocating and reprioritizing grants to universities and consulting contracts and by focusing spending on programs that have a direct impact on the department’s core mission.
The FY05 budget focuses on meeting the physical, developmental, educational and emotional needs of children in the DCFS system. Eight million dollars has been allocated for the innovative Integrated Assessment Program (IAP). The IAP will ensure children entering state custody are matched with appropriate placements by providing a comprehensive screening to identify mental, developmental, educational and behavioral needs. It will also provide the basis to shape the current system to meet those needs.
The Governor’s budget plan also includes $123 million dollars for educating wards of the state but previously administered by the State Board of Education. The transfer of these funds will enable the department to work directly with all school districts to improve educational outcomes for DCFS wards. The education of children in care is one of the agency’s top priorities. In Illinois, two out of three wards are reading below grade level and seven out of ten are performing below grade level in math. Nationwide, 50% of foster children drop out of school compared with 16% of youth not in state care.
Other highlights of the FY05 budget include:
- $20 million for a new residential monitoring unit that will demand greater programmatic accountability from contracted residential treatment programs.
- An increase of $15.2 million in adoption subsidies for families who adopt children from the DCFS system. This will ensure that families who have provided permanent homes for wards have the support and services to meet the needs of those children.
- $20 million set aside for DCFS to support service enhancements mandated by the federal government as part of their comprehensive federal review process. The department will be submitting a program improvement plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services containing solid strategies that will strengthen the delivery of much-needed services, such as mental health services, to children in the DCFS system.
The budget proposal also reflects the overall decline in caseloads and the recognition that DCFS needs to do more to help older wards successfully transition to adulthood. The 19,300 children in the DCFS system is the lowest level in 14 years, down from over 51,000 thousand in 1997.
“The decline in caseloads offers us an opportunity to focus on the quality of care rather than on the quantity,” said Director Samuels. “In 1997, we worried about whether or not there was a bed available for a child entering the system. Now, DCFS can focus on providing quality care for children and, fulfill its obligation to prepare them for a healthy and productive life.”