CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Illinois Governor JB Pritzker made a stop in Carbondale on Thursday morning, Feb. 27.
During his visit, Gov. Pritzker discussed building a third Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) simulation training center in southern Illinois.
The discussion took place at Southern Illinois University.
University and child welfare leaders attended the meeting.
Pritzker told the crowd that the state would be allocating funds to DCFS to open two new simulation labs. One would be in northern and one in southern Illinois.
“It brings this best in the nation training to our southern region. It furthers our ability to better serve our children and our families across southern Illinois," said Gov. Pritzker.
SIU would be a supporting partner in the project.
“The university is pleased to bring all of its resources to bear on this project, including involvement from the schools of medicine, law and social work, among many other outstanding academic programs that will have a direct tie-in to this work,” said SIU Carbondale Chancellor John M. Dunn.
The Acting Director of DCFS echoed Dunn’s comments.
“Continuing to move the Department of Children and Family Services forward will take new ideas that come from partnerships with the best minds in Illinois,” said DCFS Acting Director Marc Smith. “Working together, we can build a child welfare system in Illinois that our children deserve and that we can be proud of.”
The funds to support the new labs would come from last year’s DCFS budget and from a proposed $147 million increase in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
The proposed funds would also allow the state agency to hire an additional 123 staff members.
The first DCFS simulation lab was launched in 2015 in Springfield.
The labs give caseworkers hands-on-training with real-world situations.
“The person knocking at the door is not knowing what to expect and the actors are real people, and it’s very realistic. And so for them to be able to do that in an experiential model rather than doing their first knock at the door at a house, it just makes sense," said Ginger Meyer, Clinical Director for Children’s Medical and Mental Health Resource Network at SIU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.
The training allows caseworkers to learn how they can better protect the state’s most vulnerable children.
“These labs aren’t just an investment in child welfare, they’re also an investment in education and job training,” said Gov. Pritzker. "And they are investments that will make a real difference to students in every region of Illinois and in our DCFS frontline workers.”
A second DCFS simulation lab was opened in Chicago in April 2019.