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October 6, 1999

Governor Announces Child Welfare Demonstration Waiver for DCFS -- Waiver Strengthens DCFS Ability To Reunite Families

CHICAGO - Governor George H. Ryan announced today that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has granted Illinois a child welfare demonstration waiver to provide enhanced alcohol and drug abuse support services to Cook County families involved with the Department of Children & Family Services.

"In our experience, alcohol and drug abuse is the number one home wrecker in Illinois," Governor Ryan said. "Substance abuse makes reunification and permanency a more difficult process. And unfortunately, almost three-fourths of Illinois children in foster care on June 1, 1997 had at least one parent who was required to undergo alcohol and drug abuse treatment as part of the family's service plan for reunification."

As DCFS caseloads shrink, the amount of federal funding for other needed services is reduced accordingly. This waiver allows DCFS to use the money it saves for services to support families affected by substance abuse.

The state will receive new funds to assist with the costs of collecting data and evaluating the results of the program. If the program is successful in moving more children back safely to their homes, Illinois stands to gain additional federal funding that would not have been available in the absence of the waiver.

"This is a real commitment to reunification," Ryan said. "Without this waiver, Illinois would not have been able to achieve this level of care."

Under the welfare demonstration waiver, DCFS will focus on:

  • Increasing the number of alcohol and other drug abuse impacted foster care children that are safely reunified;
  • Decreasing the length of time it takes for safe reunification of alcohol and drug abuse foster care cases;
  • Increasing the number of cases and the speed at which alcohol and drug abuse cases are moved to a permanency decision;
  • Increasing the number of DCFS involved individuals referred to alcohol and drug abuse that remain in treatment for at least 90 days; and
  • Reducing the number of repeat child abuse and neglect cases.

"State reunification and other permanency option for children whose families are substance affected can be achieved through this welfare demonstration," DCFS Director Jess McDonald said. "We'll start by improving existing collaborations between child welfare and alcohol and drug abuse treatment systems in Illinois."

The demonstration targets custodial parents with a substance abuse problem and a child who enters placement or parents who deliver substance exposed babies. More than 50 families per month are expected to be eligible for the demonstration, which will be cost neutral, independently evaluated and operate for five years. The demonstration project will begin in the next few months.


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