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DCFS contract for "made-up" service is costing taxpayers millions

DCFS contract for “made-up” service is costing taxpayers millions.{ } (WICS)
DCFS contract for “made-up” service is costing taxpayers millions. (WICS)
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A new DCFS service we recently told you the Cook County Public Guardian said isn’t evidence-based is costing Illinois taxpayers millions of dollars.

Golbert said that is just one of the reasons DCFS kept it hidden from child welfare advocates until just recently.

"So, they never told anyone that these interim care centers were being created?" reporter Ana Espinosa asked.

"That’s right. If they told the advocacy community and the child welfare community, they would say, 'Oh we've never heard of an ICC. Oh, you know what, I just Googled it. There's no social science literature, it's not evidence-based - why are you, it's $700 a night, are you crazy?'” Golbert said.

The previous acting director, Beverly “BJ” Walker, signed a six-month, $5.1 million contract on her final day as DCFS director.

The contract created the Aunt Martha’s interim care center, which is a short-term living arrangement for children coming out of psychiatric hospitals.

It's important to note that the current DCFS director, Marc Smith, worked at Aunt Martha's for 10 years before accepting the position of DCFS acting director.

But according to Golbert, there is no research to support the interim care center (ICC) that DCFS is paying $5 million for.

"It’s something DCFS made up," Golbert said.

According to court documents, there are two ICCs in the state, both in Chicago.

One is Aunt Martha’s and another operated by Lawrence Hall.

According to the contracts, Aunt Martha’s charges $746 a night per child for the ICC.

Lawrence Hall charges $448 a night per child for the ICC.

We asked Aunt Martha's Chief Strategy Officer Rick Meza why they were charging so much more.

"All we know is that the services we provide, we believe our services the children are entitled to and we believe it's a fair price for what value we offer to children,” Meza said.

Golbert said DCFS never consulted with the ACLU or other advocates until after the contract was signed.

We asked DCFS when they informed advocates like the ACLU about the ICC.

They told reporter Ana Espinosa to ask the ACLU.

Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy of ACLU of Illinois, said, “We were not consulted by the leadership of DCFS as they moved forward with a plan for an ICC at Aunt Martha’s until months after the contract was agreed and the process was well underway. When we became aware of this proposal, we raised our concerns – concerns confirmed by one of the court-appointed experts.”

Golbert said DCFS created the ICC to help the statistic of kids in locked hospitals but as a result, created more problems.

"And one of the ICCs used to be shelter space and so, they took away the shelter space. So now you also have a shortage of shelter space and as a result, now you also have children sleeping in offices."

This $5 million contract expired on June 30th.

Ana Espinosa asked Aunt Martha’s officials when we interviewed them at the beginning of July if they had a copy of the new contract for the next fiscal year and they told me it was still in the works.

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