As we navigate a global health crisis, connecting with loved ones is important as ever.
We are calling on the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to be extra vigilant in prioritizing reunification of parents with their children.
Among our recommendations, we urge the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to take action to:
- In all cases in which visits must be cancelled or missed, provide parents and children with make-up visits as soon as visits resume;
- Require that non-group foster placements allow increased access to phones and other modes of communication for children in their care to be able to contact family members and loved ones during this time of crisis;
- Where in-person visitation remains possible, have DCFS and its contractors transport parents and children to and from visits via sanitary and safe modes of transportation that allow for social distancing (i.e., not public transportation);
- Ensure that caseworkers are not marking parents’ progress as “Unsatisfactory” due to pandemic-related changes to the Service Plans and requirements;
- Ensure that parents seeking reunification with their children are not penalized in child protection proceedings for suffering consequences of the current pandemic like loss of income, loss of housing, lack of access to childcare, having to care for at-risk or infected loved ones, experiencing symptoms themselves, service closures, quarantine, or others.
Along with parent advocates, the Shriver Center on Poverty law sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services today to urge them to protect parental rights while ensuring public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read the letter.