The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ hotline is often referred to as the agency’s front door because it’s the primary way abuse and neglect can be reported, after which kids and families can receive services.
In recent years, the volume of calls coming into DCFS’ hotline — 800-25-ABUSE — has risen precipitously, and hotline staffers have not been able to keep up with the increase in calls. A May audit from Auditor General Frank Mautino’s office found that timeliness for completing investigations declined significantly between 2015 and 2017, both the focus of the biennial audit and the timeframe in which the state went without an operating budget for two years.
A subsequent Chicago Tribune story this summer reported on a suburban police officer whose call to the hotline to report suspected neglect went unreturned for nearly three days — and when the call finally was returned at 1:30 a.m., the officer was asleep.
In the wake of media attention and increased legislative scrutiny on the troubled agency throughout 2019, DCFS last month told lawmakers it plans to hire 20 more workers for the hotline as part of an overall plan to add dozens more people to DCFS’ payroll, including 71 more child protection investigators.
In order to hire the 20 additional hotline workers as fast as possible, a unit within AFSCME Council 31, the umbrella union that represents most state employees, has waived a provision in its contract that requires internal candidates — who are also covered by AFSCME’s contract — to get the first chance at those jobs.