Foster kids may get exit interviews when removed from a home, according to house bill

The Illinois House meets on the chamber floor.
The Illinois House meets on the chamber floor.(WGEM)
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 4:26 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Advocates of a bill heading to the house floor said that foster parents can remove foster kids from their home with little more than a two week notice.

Their proposal heading through the house would require exit interviews of the foster children, which they hope will inform the Department of Children and Family Services on whether or not some foster parents are suited for the work.

The interviews will ask about their basic needs, security, safety, inclusion and the child’s access to social workers, according to the bill. If a child makes a claim of abuse or neglect, that would be referred to DCFS for investigation. Other issues will be recorded and considered when the foster parent is up for license renewal.

“We thought it was really important to document how the child feels,” Cook County Public Guardian representative Danielle Gomez said. “When you document that and maintain that information, if it is significant and it is a lingering problem that lingers even after the licensing rep has talked to the foster parent and worked with the foster parent, you’ll start to see that from what children are reporting coming out of the home. ”

Bill sponsor Rep. Lakesia Collins (D - Chicago) said she was inspired to make the legislation by her experience as a child in foster care. She said her and her siblings would be moved out of homes “like a revolving door.”

Other children have experienced similar treatment, according to Community Outreach Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates James McIntyre. He cited an incident where one child was removed and rehomed 19 times in 45 days.

“Why was the department not able to find a permanent placement, or at least a placement to help this young person work through the trauma in which she went through,” McIntyre said. “Shuffling kids from one foster home to another does nothing to address that trauma, but further instigates the distrust of authority figures in their life.”

Advocates said the bill would give foster children their chance to tell their side of the story, and hopefully inform DCFS and foster parents of ways to be more respectful and trauma-informed for children’s experiences.

Despite being a DCFS related bill, the department was not present at the committee hearing. Rep. Carol Ammons (D - Urbana) said small “one-off” bills like these ignore larger issues and reform needed in the organization.

She said her experience as a social worker and foster parents makes her advocate for intact family services, and focusing on keeping children in their homes with their families. A report from Children Inc. said that a large majority of children are removed from their home for neglect, which Ammons argues can be solved with intact services instead.

“There’s a right that foster parents have that biological parents do not seem to have in the foster care system,” Ammons said. “the biological parent is the one who was allegedly the cause for the child to be removed in the first place. And then we put them in foster care systems where we don’t track the treatment of the children on the back end.”

“There are many studies already that tell us we have a system that needs complete reformation,” she continued, “and we continue to do the one off kind of things because no one really wants to expose what’s actually happening in the foster care system.”

The bill passed unanimously out of committee, with several co-sponsors added.

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