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  WINDY CITY TIMES

LETTER State leaders, children need your help
2018-05-20

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An open letter from members and supporters of The Coalition to Rebuild Illinois Child Welfare

Dear Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan, Senate President Cullerton, and Minority Leaders Durkin and Brady,

You are the parents of 17,000 children who receive protective services from the state, as well as another 3,000 who are at risk of being removed from their homes. These children have experienced signi cant abuse, neglect and trauma, wounds that will heal only with the expertise of dedicated professionals.

As Illinois' elected leadership, you have the moral, legal and nancial obligation to ensure the well-being of these children. But their care is in crisis. You are the only ones who can x it.

We represent the private social service agencies in Illinois; we are responsible for more than 80 percent of the day-to-day parenting of these children for you. We provide intact family services, foster care and therapeutic foster care, permanent placement into adoptive families, and residential services.

These children only have us to care for them. Our work is complex and important but its sustainability is threatened because the state of Illinois does not want to pay for it.

Only twice in the last 17 years have we received an increase in our reimbursement rate. We are encumbered from paying livable wages to our experienced professional sta ; someone with a bachelor's degree receives an average salary of $13.88/hour, which hovers just above minimum wage.

Our highly trained, skilled employees have had enough, and they are leaving. Turnover averages about 42 percent across the state as our social workers seek out jobs that pay far more competitive wages. The loss of veteran social workers erodes our clinical expertise and harms your children in many di erent ways. Long- term relationships that are critical to providing successful child welfare services are at risk. Children are spending too much time in foster care before being moved to adoptive homes. Young adults are aging out of residential services with few skills and little or no path to success.

Illinois — previously an innovator in child welfare services — now performs worst in the nation on key statistics related to safety and timely permanency.

This crisis will only worsen as the opioid addiction epidemic spreads. Based on current trends, the number of children requiring protective services could jump by as much as 20 percent in the next year as their parents undergo medical treatment or even enter the criminal justice system.

Our work is not sustainable if we cannot invest in the training, support and supervision of our social workers and pay them the salaries they deserve.

We know Illinois can, once again, succeed at child welfare. We believe a strong public/private partnership can create systemic improvement so Illinois can re-emerge as a leader in protecting children.

We can't do it without you. We are asking you for an immediate rate increase and a long-term nancial x.

On this Mother's Day, we ask you to ensure the well-being of your 20,000 children. We ask you to sustain our work and improve child well-being. Without your help, these children are at risk, and they will suffer.

Signed by the following providers:

Jason Keeler, Allendale Association

Gary Huelsmann, Caritas Family Solutions

Rev. Msgr. Michael Boland, Catholic Charities of the

Archdiocese of Chicago Debbie Reed, Chaddock

Matt George, Children's Home Association of Illinois Cathy Krieger, Children's Place Association

Nancy Ronquillo, Children's Home & Aid

Dan Kotowski, ChildServ

Marlin Livingston, Cunningham Children's Home

Ken Withrow, Evangelical Child and Family Agency

Merry Beth Sheets, Hephzibah Children's Association Christopher L. Cox, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services Andrea Durbin, Illinois Collaboration on Youth

Mary Ann Berg, Indian Oaks Academy

Howard Sitron, Jewish Child and Family Services

Kathy Grzelak, Kaleidoscope

Ron Little, Kemmerer Village

Kara Teeple, Lawrence Hall

Tina Maraccini, Little City Foundation

Mike Bertrand, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois

Mark Stutrud, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois Toleda Hart, MYSI Corporation

Doryce McCarthy, OMNI Youth Services

Dennis Wiley, Onarga Academy

Todd Schultz, One Hope United

Annetta Wilson, Sankofa Safe Child Initiative

John Shadowens, Spero Family Services

Dianne Schultz, The Baby Fold

Patricia Fox, The Center for Youth and Family Solutions Marc Fagan, Thresholds

Zack Schrantz, UCAN

Rea Hobbs, Volunteers of America of Illinois

Rick Velasquez, Youth Outreach Services

Kathleen M. Wright, Youth Service Bureau

Organizations in support of the Coalition's request:

ACLU of Illinois

Civitas ChildLaw Center

April Curtis, Foster Care Alumni of America National

James McIntyre, Foster Care Alumni of America Illinois Chapter O ce of the Cook County Public Guardian

Voices for Illinois Children


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