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The Majority Report 08/11/18 - Morrison passes set of new laws to help reform DCFS

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Morrison passes set of new laws to help reform DCFS

Sen. Julie MorrisonWith continued high-profile failures at the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), State Senator Julie Morrison (D – Deerfield) is continuing her efforts to reform the agency that is tasked with protecting neglected and abused Illinois children.

Morrison, who is chairwoman of the Senate Human Services Committee, recently passed new initiatives into law that would help turn around the troubled agency:

  • Senate Bill 293, which requires DCFS to maintain a central register of all unfounded reports for five years following the date of the final finding.
  • Senate Bill 2461, which requires DCFS to enter into contracts with agencies or to complete development for specialized placements for youth in the department’s care who are victims of sex trafficking.
  • House Bill 4887, which requires DCFS to assist youth in care in identifying and obtaining documents necessary to function as an independent adult prior closing the court case ending the youth’s time as a ward of the state under the Juvenile Court Act.

“We owe it to all the children who rely on DCFS to do everything in our power to keep them safe,” Morrison said. “These new laws are a step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done to ensure that DCFS has all the policies and practices in place to protect children in Illinois.”

The governor signed these bills last week. They take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

 


Collins urges Rauner to sign law creating Illinois Council on Women and Girls

Sen. Andy ManarSenator Jacqueline Collins stood alongside her legislative colleagues and advocates on Wednesday to call on Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign a law creating a new council dedicated to the research and investigation of the social and economic factors that hold back women and girls in society.

“The Illinois Council on Women and Girls will study the things that hold back half of our population from achieving their full potential, and it will periodically report on ways we could tear down the barriers that hold back our sisters and daughters,” Collins said, addressing reporters at a press conference at the James R. Thompson Center.

“In doing so, it will start the conversations that result in change. I urge Governor Rauner to be part of the change we want to see in the world and to sign House Bill 5544.”

Submitted to the governor June 19, the legislation, which passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support, must be acted upon within the next two weeks. Collins and partner organizations Women’s March Chicago, Cause the Effect, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, Equality IL, CNOW, YWCA- Metro Chicago, Chicago Foundation for Women, United State of Women, Women Employed, Men4Choice, Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, HerStory Chicago and the Chicago Center for Arts and Technology all urged Rauner to sign the legislation rather than allow it to languish for two weeks before automatically becoming law.

“This is really the start of our activism, using social media to convey to the governor that he needs to sign the bill,” Collins said.

 



Remember when Gov. Rauner wanted to eliminate DCFS scholarships? Senator Hunter does.

Sen. Mattie HunterThree years ago, a young woman sat at the witness table in a Senate budget hearing, telling lawmakers what the Department of Children and Family Services scholarship program meant to her.

It meant that a former foster child, taken into state care and custody after being neglected and abandoned, had been able to attend college. It had given her a chance to strive for a brighter future otherwise foreign. She was committed to not being another foster care statistic. The DCFS scholarship empowered her commitment.

Lauretta Schaefer told her story to lawmakers in 2015 because Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to cancel her scholarship and dozens of others. She would have had to drop out. Kids like her would never get the chance to enroll. It was part of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda designed to wipeout programs the new governor deemed unworthy or unaffordable.

I’ve always found this early moment in the Rauner administration particularly offensive.

Here you had a governor saying the state should be competitive but compassionate. Yet, one of his first moves was to bring the budget ax down on a competitively awarded scholarship program that benefits wards of the state, who have suffered through all kinds of personal turmoil only to emerge academically successful and eager to take the next step toward improving their lives.

These young people should be celebrated, not cut off.

Thankfully, Bruce Rauner failed to eliminate the scholarships.

Ms. Schaefer finished her dance education studies at Illinois State University, graduated and now teaches in her field in Illinois. Hundreds of other students from similar backgrounds have been able to stay in or go to college because the scholarship program survived.

Had Rauner eliminated it, none of that would be possible. He also wouldn’t have been able to send out the wonderful press release his administration recently distributed praising the DCFS scholarship program and the new batch of students who will utilize it.

The governor now says these scholarships “will open the doors to a lifetime of possibilities for each of these young men and women.”

Yes, yes they will. And that’s the point we made three years ago in opposing his draconian cuts.

To top it off, the governor expanded the program, adding a 54th scholarship to the program he wanted gone. For Gov. Rauner, that is indeed quite a turnaround.

I’m thankful that the governor recognized he was wrong, that students like Ms. Schaefer were able to continue their studies and that a new crop of 54 students have a chance to celebrate his failure along with him. It will have to suffice for the apology he never offered for the chaos he caused in their lives.

Senator Mattie Hunter is a Chicago Democrat and sponsor of the bipartisan 2014 law that expanded scholarship opportunities for current and former wards of the state.

 


Martinez holds annual Family Wellness and Back to School Fair

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) held her annual Family Wellness and Back to School Fair on Thursday, joined by co-host State Representative Jaime Andrade Jr. (D-Chicago), along with Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Alderman Deb Mell and Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr.

“For students to have a great school year, they need to start school healthy,” Martinez said. “With health care costs being so high, this event is an amazing opportunity for parents to get free services for their children like dental work and school physicals.”

Kids received school bags and supplies and were able to get physicals, immunizations, dental and vision screenings. Services were also available for adults, including health screenings, CountyCare Health Insurance registration and assistance from the Illinois Secretary of State.

Representatives from the City of Chicago CityKey Program were also on site.

 

 


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