SPRINGFIELD -- The Department of Children and Family Services began issuing layoff notices to 600 employees on Friday with the aim of paring its workforce by 375 positions while still meeting its legal obligations to care for abused and neglected children and provide other services.
SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services began issuing layoff notices to 600 employees on Friday.
The agency is trying to reduce its workforce by a net of about 375 positions and still meet its obligations to care for abused and neglected children and provide other services.
The department said the job eliminations were forced by the General Assembly, which cut $86 million from the department budget this fiscal year.
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to return $50 million to DCFS by reallocating it from the Department of Corrections budget. Lawmakers, who designated that money to keep open prisons and juvenile detention facilities Quinn wants to close, would have to approve the change.
“This is a people business, and I understand the deep impact this has on the many people who will lose their jobs,” DCFS director Richard Calica wrote in a letter to his staff. “It leaves a mark on all of us. … In a field where we strive to help others in need, we now find ourselves in need of understanding and support.”
Calica intends to realign positions in order to staff the front lines, including opening 250 direct service vacancies in the department’s casework and investigations areas. The reassignments are needed to comply with a federal consent decree limiting the number of cases each investigator is required to handle.
“We will be working with the union throughout to see that affected employees understand their options and are able to act on them,” Calica wrote.
Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said DCFS’ headcount has been cut in half since 2001.
“Past cuts already left DCFS employees struggling to keep pace,” Bayer said. “
Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the department, said no estimate is available of how many positions in Springfield are affected. There will be layoffs in Springfield, Marlowe said, but some of the front-line positions will also be based in the city. AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said he expects more than 20 layoffs in Springfield.
Funding in doubt
The positions to be cut mostly deal with programs aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect, Marlowe said. These are programs where the department has determined that it needs to intervene, but which are not severe enough to go to court to ask that the children be removed from their homes.
“We’re having to greatly reduce the scope of those,” Marlowe said.
The layoffs are to take effect Sept. 30, Bayer noted.
AFSCME also wants the legislature to restore funding for four prisons Quinn wants to close, but that can be done only if the $50 million Quinn wants to use at DCFS stays with the Department of Corrections.
Rep. Sara Feigenholz, D-Chicago, chairwoman of the House appropriations committee that deals with DCFS, said she it’s too early to predict whether legislative leaders will agree to shift the funding.
“Every agency suffered and has for the last two years,” she said. “This is not an isolated situation. I just think that this has been a devastating year.”
Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.
Governor’s proposed budget: 2,961
Headcount after the layoffs: 2,586