Office of the Cook County Public Guardian

Office of the Cook County Public Guardian The Public Guardian represents Cook County's most vulnerable people who, due to age or disability, are not able to fight for themselves.

Operating as usual

Public Guardian Charles Golbert penned a book review that appears in the Spring 2021 issue of the Journal of the Nationa...
02/27/2021
NAELA Journal Spring 2021 Golbert Book Review

Public Guardian Charles Golbert penned a book review that appears in the Spring 2021 issue of the Journal of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA Journal). In his review, Golbert discusses the importance of diversity and inclusion in the judiciary and the legal profession, and how the jurisprudence of our courts might differ if the judiciary were more diverse. Golbert also discusses In re Baby Richard, an Illinois adoption case that received national attention and resulted in national reforms.

You can read the review here:

CBS Chicago has a report about the letter we sent yesterday to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and State’s Att...
02/26/2021
Cook County Public Guardian Demands Answers In Sex Abuse Case Of 10-Year-Old Girl

CBS Chicago has a report about the letter we sent yesterday to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx demanding that charges be brought against the 5 known adult male perpetrators who trafficked and sexually abused a girl for 3 years, starting when she was 7 years old and continuing until she was 10 years old. The girl was abused for 3 years despite multiple reports over this period to DCFS and the police, which failed to make any arrests or take any protective action. You can watch the report here:

The Cook County public guardian is demanding answers from police and prosecutors, about why no one's facing charges in the repeated sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini first uncovered the case last week.

Last week we posted a report by Dave Savini of CBS Chicago News about a 10-year-old girl who was sexually abused by at l...
02/25/2021
Letter to CPD Superintendent Brown and CCSA Foxx, 2-25-21

Last week we posted a report by Dave Savini of CBS Chicago News about a 10-year-old girl who was sexually abused by at least 5 men, including men in their 40s and 50s, starting when she was 7 years old. This happened despite multiple reports to DCFS about the abuse and extensive DCFS involvement with the family dating back to 2016, when the girl was 6. Over all these years, DCFS failed to protect the girl from the ongoing sex abuse.

To add to the injustices, the police know the identities of at least five of the perpetrators, but have made no arrests.

We have been working with the police since last fall trying to persuade them to charge the perpetrators, so far without success. Today, Public Guardian Charles Golbert sent a letter to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, demanding that the perpetrators be charged and prosecuted. You can read the letter here:

Dana Kozlov of CBS Chicago has an excellent report about DCFS’s decision to dismiss our office from the Child Welfare Ad...
02/24/2021
Cook County Guardian Speaks Out After He Said He And His Department Were Being Silenced By DCFS

Dana Kozlov of CBS Chicago has an excellent report about DCFS’s decision to dismiss our office from the Child Welfare Advisory Council (CWAC) even though we represent nearly half of the children in DCFS’s care. With our dismissal, most of the appointees work for organizations under contract with DCFS. Moreover, with our dismissal, there is not a single lawyer on the council who is appointed to represent children in their Juvenile Court cases.

To the best of our institutional memory, we’ve had a representative on CWAC for the council’s entire history of more than two decades. Until now.

This is part of a disturbing recent pattern of DCFS attempting to silence dissenting voices. For example, DCFS replaced its outspoken Inspector General on a Friday night last March when COVID-19 and the State’s new lockdown order were dominating the news. The new IG has no child welfare experience, and his first report, released last month, is the shortest in 20 years and wholly lacking in substance. Other examples are in Kozlov’s report.

We call on DCFS to reverse course. For there to be any hope for meaningful reform, there must be transparency and room for dissenting viewpoints.

You can watch Kozlov’s report, which has commentary from supervising attorney Brian Finley, here:

"Now the composition of this council essentially all agencies that have contracts with DCFS. That really limits their ability to disagree with DCFS."

Youth and young adults who have recently "aged out" of foster care or are about to age out have been hit particularly ha...
02/23/2021
What It’s Like to Age Out of Foster Care During the Pandemic

Youth and young adults who have recently "aged out" of foster care or are about to age out have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have special needs and are uniquely vulnerable to mental health challenges, loss of wages, and homelessness. A survey last spring by FosterClub, a national network of foster youth, showed that 1 in 5 people aged 18-24 who were formerly in foster care had run out of food, and more than half had challenges with food security. Nearly a quarter had lost their housing, and nearly two-thirds were laid off or lost work hours. In response, in December 2020 DCFS announced that it would extend housing, healthcare, financial assistance, and other services for these youth.

A recent article in Teen Vogue takes a closer look at the struggles of those trying to establish their lives while aging out of care during the pandemic. The deleterious impact of the pandemic on those leaving foster care will not end soon. We urge the Department to further extend supports for this vulnerable group until at least the end of 2021.

“It’s been one thing after another for so long.”

Dave Savini of CBS Chicago News has coverage of a 10-year-old girl who was sexually abused by at least 5 men, including ...
02/19/2021
Why Are Suspects In Repeated Sexual Abuse Of 10-Year-Old Girl Free, While She Was Locked Up In A Psychiatric Facility?

Dave Savini of CBS Chicago News has coverage of a 10-year-old girl who was sexually abused by at least 5 men, including men in their 40s and 50s, starting when she was 7 years old. This happened despite multiple reports to DCFS about the abuse and extensive DCFS involvement with the family dating back to 2016, when the girl was 6. Over all these years, DCFS failed to protect the girl from the ongoing sex abuse.

To make matters worse, the girl has been in a locked psychiatric hospital for more than a month beyond medical necessity because DCFS has nowhere to place her. When the infuriated judge heard this, DCFS claimed that it’s not its fault it has no placement for the child because her emotional challenges are so advanced for her young age. Of course, that’s because DCFS allowed the girl to be trafficked for so many years. DCFS also withheld documents about its prior involvement with the family.

To add to the injustices, the police know the identities of at least two of the perpetrators but have made no arrests.

You can watch the piece here:

Police and child protective services are scrambling to explain why multiple men who sexually abused a 10-year-old girl remain free, even though the suspects are known.

The Child Welfare Advisory Council (CWAC) is an important council that advises DCFS on all aspects of child welfare poli...
02/18/2021
Letter to DCFS Director Smith on Brian Finley CWAC Appointment

The Child Welfare Advisory Council (CWAC) is an important council that advises DCFS on all aspects of child welfare policy and practice. To the best of our institutional memory, for the entire history of the council, our office, which represents nearly half of the children and youth in DCFS’s care, has always had a representative. Until now.

Last month, Marc Smith, the Acting Director of DCFS, advised us that we would no longer have a seat at the table. In fact, there is no one on the current roster who is appointed to represent children in their Juvenile Court cases. Most all of the appointees work for organizations under contract with DCFS.

This is part of a disturbing recent pattern of DCFS seeking to silence dissenting voices. Recent examples include the midnight replacement of DCFS’s outspoken Inspector General (IG) with someone with no child welfare experience. The new IG released his first annual report last month. As we’ve posted previously, it’s wholly lacking in substance, in fact, the shortest IG report in 20 years. Another recent example is DCFS’s attempt to stop a 17-year-old from speaking to the press about his experience being locked up in a psychiatric hospital for more than 2 months of his life for no reason other than DCFS having nowhere to place him. We had to file emergency motions in court to vindicate the youth’s First Amendment rights to free speech and expression to talk about his ordeal, which the court granted in a written opinion.

We sent a letter about this issue to Acting Director Smith, which you can read here:

We’ve posted about the Illinois Auditor General’s (AG) scathing report released last week about DCFS’s system-wide failu...
02/16/2021
Recs for LGBTQ Committee-Final-signed.pdf

We’ve posted about the Illinois Auditor General’s (AG) scathing report released last week about DCFS’s system-wide failures to properly care for the LGBTQ children and youth in its care. DCFS doesn’t even have a process for identifying LGBTQ youth so that they can be matched with the affirming placements and services they need. Among its many other findings, the AG’s 154-page report documents that DCFS does not effectively train its staff, failed to improve recruitment of affirming foster parents, and failed to implement and monitor its own policies. DCFS’s Chief of LGBTQ Services position has been vacant for the bulk of the time since it was created years ago and remains vacant.

All of these problems have been known for years. Last November we posted a letter we sent to DCFS’s director delineating many of these and other problems with recommendations for reform. In addition, below is a letter from the LGBTQ taskforce of the Child Welfare Advisory Counsel (CWAC), also sent last fall, with similar recommendations. Unfortunately, DCFS has taken no action.

You can read the CWAC letter here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LiYSKoNpAb4n0Yn5VUja4-1AyK2XsZUm/view?usp=sharing

Jordan Elder of WICS ABC Newschannel 20 in Springfield is continuing her coverage of the two-year anniversary of the dea...
02/13/2021
Ta'Naja's Law: Loved ones look to rename bill passed after child's death

Jordan Elder of WICS ABC Newschannel 20 in Springfield is continuing her coverage of the two-year anniversary of the death of Ta’Naja Barnes at the age of two. Although DCFS had been extensively involved with Ta’Naja and her family for most of her short life, Ta’Naja died due to neglect, dehydration, malnutrition, and hypothermia. Ta’Naja’s mother is serving a 20-year sentence and her boyfriend has been sentenced to 30 years for first-degree murder.

In a piece that aired last night, Elder covered efforts by Ta’Naja’s loved ones, including her former foster mother, to rename a January 2020 law in Ta’Naja’s memory. The new law requires that DCFS complete home safety checks before and after returning a child from foster care to their biological parents.

The law is a codification of common sense and the most minimal of social work standards. Had DCFS taken this basic step of doing a safety check before returning Ta’Naja to her abusive parents, Ta'Naja would likely still be alive and would be celebrating her 5th birthday next month.

For every Ta’Naja who makes the front-page news, there are many other children who die due to DCFS’s dysfunction. Last year, 102 children died despite DCFS involvement over the previous year. In an appalling response to this report, DCFS issued a press release trumpeting that this is a 17% “improvement” from the previous year, when 123 children died despite DCFS involvement.

You can watch the story here:

Loved ones are proposing a new way to honor Ta'Naja Barnes, the toddler killed two years ago in Decatur. Ta'Naja's former foster mother is aiming to rename a law passed in 2019. This law requires the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to complete home safety checks before and...

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Ta’Naja Barnes, who died at the age of two due to neglect, dehy...
02/12/2021
Memories of Ta'Naja Barnes live on 2 years after her death

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Ta’Naja Barnes, who died at the age of two due to neglect, dehydration, malnutrition, and hypothermia. Ta’Naja was found unresponsive, wrapped in a urine-soaked blanket. She had bruises on her face and body. The home had an overwhelming smell of feces and urine. The temperature in the home was 45 degrees, and there was no running water. Ta’Naja’s mother is serving a 20-year sentence and her boyfriend has been sentenced to 30 years for first-degree murder.

DCFS had been extensively involved with the family for most of Ta’Naja’s short life but failed to protect her.

Yesterday, Jordan Elder of WICS ABC Newschannel 20 in Springfield aired a compelling story featuring memories of Ta’Naja’s life. Ta’Naja was remembered as radiant, bubbly, and for her smile. Ta’Naja loved spaghetti, trampolines, dolls, and her tricycle, according to her foster mother who cared for her briefly before DCFS returned Ta’Naja’s to her mother.

Ta’Naja would have turned five years old next month. You can watch the news piece here:

It's been two years since the death ofTa'Naja Barnes. The toddler suffered abuse and neglect despite the involvement of Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Her death was a catalyst in launching our Project Illinois investigation into the department. In the days leading up to...

Last week Public Guardian Charles Golbert presented as part of a panel for The Chicago Bar Association (CBA) Financial I...
02/12/2021

Last week Public Guardian Charles Golbert presented as part of a panel for The Chicago Bar Association (CBA) Financial Institutions Committee. The panel discussed financial exploitation of older adults, red flags for financial institutions to detect financial abuse, reporting requirements, freezing assets, liability, and related topics. The other panelists were Hon. Aicha M. MacCarthy, Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Probate Division; Kerry R. Peck, managing partner of Peck Ritchey, LLC; and Elizabeth Khalil, Managing Director, Associate General Counsel, and Chief Privacy Counsel of CIBC Bank USA. Golbert also serves on the CBA's board of managers.

Yesterday we posted about the Auditor General’s scathing report documenting DCFS’s failures to properly care for the LGB...
02/11/2021
New audit finds shortfalls in DCFS care of LGBTQ youth

Yesterday we posted about the Auditor General’s scathing report documenting DCFS’s failures to properly care for the LGBTQ children and youth in its care. Last night, WICS ABC Newschannel 20 in Springfield had excellent coverage of the report by Jordan Elder. The piece features a moving testimonial from James McIntyre, a former youth in care and leading advocate.

DCFS’s response, predictably, was to blame prior administrations. But no progress has been made over the past two years of the current administration. Most remarkably, DCFS still doesn’t even have a process to identify LGBTQ youth in care so that they can be matched with affirming placements and the services they need. And DCFS’s Chief of LGBTQ Services position has been vacant for the entirety of the current administration’s tenure. As we posted last November, we sent a letter to the current DCFS director delineating many of the problems documented in the AG’s report with recommendations for reform, but DCFS has taken no action.

In the news story, McIntyre called DCFS’s attempt to blame past administrations, when no progress has been made over the past two years, “a slap in the face to every single LGBT foster child.”

McIntyre is right. The buck stops with the current DCFS director and the governor. Period.

We’re tired of excuses; we demand action. You can watch the Newschannel 20 piece here:

The Illinois Office of the Auditor General released a new report examining the care of LGBTQ children in the Department of Children and Family Services' (DCFS) system. A lack of records and skipped protocols are just some of the findings. The 154-page audit outlines many shortfalls in the department...

02/10/2021
www.auditor.illinois.gov

Today the Illinois Auditor General (AG) released a scathing report about DCFS’s failure to properly care for the LGBTQ children and youth in its care. The Auditor General found that DCFS has failed to implement its own policies to protect LGBTQ youth, inadequately monitored these policies, did not effectively train staff, failed to match LGBTQ children and youth with affirming foster parents and services, and failed to improve recruitment of affirming foster parents.

Remarkably, DCFS doesn’t even have a process to identify LGBTQ youth in care so that such youth can receive the placements and services they need. Because DCFS doesn’t have a process for identifying LGBTQ youth, the AG could not determine disparities in outcomes compared with other youth in care.

Many systemic problems that impact all youth in care have a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ youth. For example, the AG report cites DCFS’s loss of more than 100 shelter beds over the past years as disproportionately impacting LGBTQ children and youth. Other examples include abysmal record keeping, lack of planning for sibling visitations, and children who languish in locked psychiatric hospitals after they are ready to be discharged.

All of these problems have been known for years. In fact, in November we posted a letter we sent to DCFS’s director delineating many of these and other problems with recommendations for reform. To date, DCFS has taken no action.

It is beyond embarrassing that DCFS’s Chief of LGBTQ Services position has been vacant for the bulk of the time since it was created years ago and remains vacant. What message does that send to LGBTQ youth in care?

We again call on DCFS to take immediate action to remedy the problems we outlined last November and that are elucidated in today’s AG report. You can read the full report below.

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69 West Washington St, Suite 700
Chicago, IL
60602

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