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Editorial: Pending DCFS cuts unacceptable

Updated: October 22, 2012 6:20AM

Is this the kind of state we really want to live in?

In less than two weeks, 283 state Department of Children and Family Services workers will be laid off because of state budget cuts. Another 100 positions won’t be filled.

These are not loafing middle managers. Most are front-line staffers who do the hard work of keeping troubled families together, supporting parents so they can keep their kids out of foster care.

Faced with an $85 million budget cut this year, DCFS had no choice but to scale back this essential intact family services program. It wasn’t eliminated, saved by contracting it out to private agencies, but now only the most at-risk families will be served and for a shorter period of time than in the past, DCFS says.

DCFS this year expects to serve 3,200 families through this program, down from 4,600 families. To get services, a family must have a substantiated abuser living in the house or a parent who is a former state ward.

Talk about leaving a lot of families out in the cold.

Gov. Quinn wants legislators in the November veto session to restore money to DCFS by reallocating at least part of the $57 million that he vetoed from the state budget in July. The Legislature earmarked that money to run several prisons and juvenile facilities that Quinn wants closed. We support most of those closures as both fiscally sound and good policy.

The legislature should follow Quinn’s lead and restore, at least partially, DCFS cuts.

The child welfare agency must prove to legislators that it has squeezed every last dollar out its organization and that it is using this fiscal crisis as a chance to improve its operations. From what we understand, that work is under way.

One option is to take the money from the prisons. Another is to tap into newly released state revenue projections that are higher than when the state passed its budget.

One way or another, legislators cannot stand idly by and allow for these devastating cuts.

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