Updated: December 17, 2013 6:08AM
Richard H. Calica, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, is resigning after being diagnosed with cancer.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced the resignation Friday “due to serious illness,” saying Calica “has been diagnosed with cancer and today informed the governor of his medical condition.”
Calica, 67, who recently underwent surgery, had been DCFS director since December 2011.
He spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ last week to discuss the news outlets’ findings that DCFS-involved child deaths from abuse and neglect are on the rise. The governor’s office said the timing of Calica’s resignation had nothing to do with the findings, published Friday.
“Director Calica has taken this agency in the right direction, and he always put the safety of our most vulnerable children first,” Quinn said.
He said Denise Gonzales, the agency’s chief of staff, will serve as acting director, effective immediately.
Calica replaced Erwen McEwen, who’d resigned amid a contracting scandal involving millions of dollars in state grants.
The governor touted Calica’s addition of 138 new investigators to the child-welfare system by eliminating management posts. He also credited him for modernizing the agency’s hotline system, “which has led to a 40 percent increase in the volume of callers who immediately reach a child-protection specialist.”
In a written statement, Calica said, “The reforms that we’ve put in place will maximize this agency’s ability to ensure the safety of children who are at risk of abuse and neglect for years to come.”