A Cook County judge found Marc Smith, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, contemptuous for the continued improper placement of two state wards.
Cook County District Judge Patrick T. Murphy sentenced Smith on Thursday, Jan. 6, to a fine of $ 1,000 per day for the two children – a 9-year-old girl, on court records – in each of the cases known as AM; and a 13-year-old boy known as CRM – remained in inappropriate positions. In both cases, orders are suspended – one until 4 p.m. Wednesday and the other until 4 p.m. Jan. 18 – so Smith can petition the appeals court to appeal.
“The disregard determination and the $ 1,000 per day fine are based on the fact that Director Smith disregarded numerous court orders directing him to move the minor to clinically appropriate accommodation and to remove the minor from the mental hospital she was in. “Imprisoned June 2021, against the advice of medical staff who determined she could have been released that day,” Murphy wrote in the warrant on AM’s case.
13-year-old boy CRM was also fetched from the shelter on November 14th, where he had been housed since August 14th in a shelter in Mount Vernon – 279 miles from Chicago, where his mother lives. Previously, CRM, who has severe mental health problems, was in another Chicago emergency shelter where he slept in a utility room. At the time, DCFS informed the court that the child needed a therapeutic foster family. The Mount Vernon Animal Shelter is temporary accommodation for children less than 30 days. CRM was at the shelter for 149 days on Monday.
The 9-year-old girl was sexually and physically abused for years in her biological home. She has been hospitalized for psychiatry since April 24th. On June 1, the doctors approved her release. A judge ordered three times that the girl be placed in a suitable location. She doesn’t go to school or participate in other activities, said Charles Golbert, Cook County’s public guardian.
“She was there on July 4th, her ninth birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years,” Golbert said. “Enough is enough. If there was ever a child who had to get out of a closed psychiatric ward and into appropriate accommodation, it would be this girl.”
The 9-year-old has been in a locked psychiatric institution for 223 days since Monday.
The Cook County’s Public Guardian office represents abused and neglected children. Golbert’s office represents both children in these cases.
DCFS has placed 356 children in inappropriate settings nationwide for an average of 55 days, Golbert said. There were so many children that Murphy, the chief judge of the Child Protection Department, found that a separate file “Beyond Medical Need” was created.
The court order found that in 2020, DCFS had 314 wards in psychiatric hospitals beyond the date of discharge. In 2014 there were 75 DCFS wards in psychiatric facilities beyond the discharge date. That number doubled to 168 in 2015.
Murphy, who served as Cook County’s public guardian for 25 years prior to becoming a judge, wrote in his order that “Children cannot get out of mental health facilities because children cannot get out of residential facilities and are therefore in shortage.” He cited the shortage of foster families and the shortage of group homes.
Golbert noted that DCFS has closed 460 residential beds since 2015 with the aim of replacing those residential spaces with foster families with specialized services for children. But these houses were never built. DCFS has opened fewer than 30 therapeutic homes since the closure and has never reopened the residential spaces.
“The highly structured therapeutic homes were never opened and the living beds were never replaced,” Murphy wrote. “Instead, all judges in this department are consistently told by DCFS agents to be patient as they attempt to place increasing numbers of troubled children in fewer and fewer dormitories and appropriate specialized homes. A few years ago this argument had some justification. But after years of children deteriorating in inappropriate and dangerous placement, the court must act. “
Murphy also noted that DCFS Director Smith and his agents and predecessors were violating the children’s constitutional rights and legal mandates, but he disregarded him not for this but for his refusal to obey valid court orders regarding the placement of the children.
In a letter to Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Oak Park, chair of the Human Services Appropriations Committee, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, requested hearings on the matter, finding that DCFS had paid a billion Dollar Budget has and is tasked with protecting the most vulnerable.
“The tax money allocated to the DCFS is clearly not being spent as the General Assembly intended, and the core mission of DCFS is not being fulfilled. It is your committee’s duty to investigate this matter immediately. Our children can’t wait, ”wrote Durkin.
In 30 years before the juvenile court, Golbert said he had never seen an order for disregarding the DCFS chief.
“This is unprecedented,” he said.
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