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.

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Save the date!A Foster Parent Recruitment Picnic is being held on Saturday, September 18, 2021 from 10 AM - 2 PM at Dan ...
09/01/2021
Foster Parent Recruitment Picnic

Save the date!

A Foster Parent Recruitment Picnic is being held on Saturday, September 18, 2021 from 10 AM - 2 PM at Dan Ryan Woods Pavilion. Several prominent Illinois child welfare organizations are participating, including CASA of Cook County, Hephzibah Children's Association, The Illinois LGBTQ Roundtable, Kaleidoscope, Kids Above All, Lawrence Hall, Little City Foster Care, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, and UCAN.

This free, family-friendly event hosted by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and Impact Grants Chicago will feature a presentation and Q&A with current foster parents and child welfare professionals, as well as games and activities for children. Learn more & register here:

Join us for this free, family-friendly information event!

“When DCFS does not provide services in one’s language, that is so harmful to the child, the parents and the family.”  P...
08/31/2021
Illinois’ Child Welfare Agency Continues to Fail Spanish-Speaking Families

“When DCFS does not provide services in one’s language, that is so harmful to the child, the parents and the family.”

ProPublica has an excellent article about DCFS’s failures to Spanish-speaking families, in violation of a decades-old federal consent decree known as Burgos. At the outset of a case, DCFS fails to identify and document that a family is Spanish speaking. Therefore, not surprisingly, many families do not receive the language-appropriate services they need. DCFS has a profound shortage of Spanish-speaking case workers. This delays efforts to reunite children with their parents.

The article also reports on DCFS’s lack of transparency. For example, for two years DCFS has rebuffed requests for Burgos compliance records. DCFS also declined to share the results of an internal audit.

Today’s article follows-up on a comprehensive investigative piece ProPublica published two years ago. That report documented DCFS’s coercion of Spanish-speaking parents to waive their rights to Spanish-speaking services.

You can read the article, by Melissa Sanchez and Duaa Eldeib, here:

Two years after a ProPublica investigation, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services still is not complying with a federal court order to better serve Spanish-speaking families.

08/28/2021

Yesterday, Gov. JB Pritzker signed two pieces of legislation that our office helped draft and strongly advocated for. First, Pritzker signed SB2323, which prohibits DCFS from restraining children during transportation. This bill came about after it was revealed that DCFS was shackling children with handcuffs, legcuffs, and chains for routine transports with no clinical or safety justification. Just last week DCFS workers testified that a teenager was strapped down in an ambulance for a 5-hour trip from a psychiatric hospital in northern Illinois to a shelter in southern Illinois. There was no medical or clinical reason for the transport to have been by ambulance. We can only imagine what this unnecessary and harmful 5-hour ambulance trip cost the taxpayers. Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that she’s “disgusted the legislation was needed in the first place.”

Gov. Pritzker also signed HB3886, which prevents DCFS from interfering with the First Amendment speech rights of its children and youth. This bill came about after DCFS tried to prevent a 17-year-old from talking to the press, as he desired to do, about his experiences being locked up in a psychiatric hospital for months after he was ready to be discharged. Our office had to file and litigate an emergency motion in court. After a 2-day hearing the court ordered DCFS to stop interfering with the youth’s constitutional rights to talk with the reporter.

Here are links to both bills:

SB2323 (no shackling):
https://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2323&GAID=16&GA=102&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=134977&SessionID=110

HB3886 (free speech):

https://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=3886&GAID=16&GA=102&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=132972&SessionID=110

It's "disgusting the legislation was needed in the first place." -- Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago)We have posted abou...
08/27/2021
Clock is ticking for Pritzker to sign bill banning shackles for DCFS youth

It's "disgusting the legislation was needed in the first place." -- Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago)

We have posted about DCFS's use of unlawful restraints -- including handcuffs and shackles -- to transport its children. To address the problem, the General Assembly passed, by a wide margin, a bill that would prohibit the practice. The bill has been on Governor JB Pritzker's desk for 60 days and will expire unless he signs it today.

What is the holdup? Restraining youth during lengthy drives to new placements, for no clinical or safety reason, is traumatizing to a child and a civil rights violation. We call on Pritzker to sign this important legislation today.

Last night an excellent report by Jordan Elder of WICS ABC Newschannel 20 in Springfield aired about the legislation:

For months, the only thing permanently stopping the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) from shackling children has been a signature from the governor. The House and Senate passed a billprohibiting "the use of restraints on youth in care, including chemical, manual, and mechan...

08/26/2021
DCFS teen strapped to gurney for over four hours during transport

“This borders on torture.”

Jordan Elder of WICS ABC Newschannel 20 in Springfield has an excellent report about the 17-year-old whom DCFS transported in an ambulance, strapped on his back to a gurney, for a 5-hour drive to an inappropriate shelter. Due to DCFS’s chronic lack of placements, this was the closest bed – the only bed – that DCFS could find in the entire state.

There was no clinical or medical reason for the transport to have been by ambulance, or for the youth to be restrained for the long journey. DCFS’s only explanation for why it used an ambulance is its “shortage of transport resources.” In a statement to Newschannel 20, DCFS trumpeted that, unlike previous instances where it illegally restrained its children during transports, "no...metal shackles were used" this time.

This violates the child’s basic civil rights, the consent decree in the federal B.H. case, and DCFS’s own regulations. It also violates a new law that passed out of the General Assembly in June but has been languishing on Gov. Pritzker’s desk for nearly 2 months.

We call for a full investigation as to how this happened, how often DCFS uses ambulances to transport children, and how often such transports involve illegal restraints. We also call on Gov. Pritzker to sign the bill that’s been sitting on his desk for the past 59 days. Finally, we call on DCFS to finally take meaningful action to expand its placement capacity, which is at the root of so many of its problems. DCFS has continued to lose residential and group home beds over the past 2 years.

You can read or watch Elder's report here:

DCFS teen strapped to gurney for over four hours during transport by Jordan Elder Thursday, August 26th 2021 3 View All Photos The inside of an ambulance (WICS file photo) SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is under fire after advocates say a teen...

On Friday, DCFS transported a 17-year-old youth for a 5-hour drive to a shelter while strapped on his back to a gurney i...
08/24/2021
DCFS Teen Illegally Strapped Onto Gurney Against Agency Policy

On Friday, DCFS transported a 17-year-old youth for a 5-hour drive to a shelter while strapped on his back to a gurney in an ambulance. There was no clinical or medical need for the transport to have been in an ambulance or for the youth to have been restrained in any manner.

DCFS had no appropriate placement for the child. All of DCFS’s shelters in Chicago were full and the shelter 5 hours away was the closest bed available.

DCFS has offered no reason for why the transport was by ambulance, or why the youth was strapped to a gurney for the 5-hour drive, other than “lack of transport resources.”

This violates the federal court order in the B.H. case, as well as DCFS’s own regulations. In addition, in the spring the General Assembly passed legislation making it illegal for DCFS to restrain its children during transport. The bill has been on Gov. Pritzker’s desk awaiting his signature since June 28. We call on Pritzker to immediately sign this bill into law without further delay.

The court order in B.H., the DCFS regulation, and the legislation came about when, 2 years ago, it was exposed that DCFS was shackling its children by their hands and feet – using handcuffs, leg cuffs, and chains – to transport them to placements. Yet DCFS continues this unlawful and clinically devastating practice.

Chris Tye of CBS Chicago News, who has been covering this issue for two years, has an excellent report about this most recent case of DCFS illegally restraining its children. Tye’s report also discusses DCFS’s chronic placement shortage, the state of utter chaos and confusion that characterizes DCFS, and how children are harmed as a result.

You can read or watch Tye’s report here:

With no medical or clinical needs, the boy was strapped in and sent south.

We have been posting about the disturbingly low staff vaccination rate at nursing homes in Illinois. For example, the Ch...
08/22/2021
Biden to require COVID vaccines for nursing home staff

We have been posting about the disturbingly low staff vaccination rate at nursing homes in Illinois. For example, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that Symphony at 87th Street in Chicago has a staff vaccination rate of less than 5%.

On Wednesday, President Biden announced that nursing homes that receive federal funds must have their staff vaccinated against COVID-19. We strongly support this policy.

Due to their age and health conditions, combined with the congregate setting, nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable to infection and death from COVID-19. At one point, nursing home residents made up 60% of COVID-related deaths in Illinois. This dropped to 7% in the spring but, due to the Delta variant, is now back up to 34%. Last week Public Guardian Charles Golbert had a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune about the problem.

We agree with the statement that accompanied the new policy: “If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees.” Here is an Associated Press article about the new requirement:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that his administration will require that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Yesterday we celebrated the 100th birthday of Grace Watanabe, a remarkable woman under our guardianship. Her story has m...
08/20/2021

Yesterday we celebrated the 100th birthday of Grace Watanabe, a remarkable woman under our guardianship. Her story has made the national news and been a source of inspiration to many. We continue to litigate our lawsuit against Symphony Nursing Home to recover the $750,000 that its staff stole from Ms. Watanabe when she was a resident there.

Ms. Watanabe, who is of Japanese ancestry, spent four years at the Poston internment camp in Arizona during World War II even though she was born in California and has always been a U.S. citizen. She was in her 20s at the time. After the war Ms. Watanabe moved to Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She then moved to Washington, DC, where she spent more than three decades in service to the federal government as an employee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ms. Watanabe was frugal and disciplined about saving for her retirement. She returned to Chicago when she retired.

In 2009, Ms. Watanabe experienced a fall and her health started to decline. By then she had no living family. Recognizing that she needed assistance and could not live alone, she moved to Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, and relied on Symphony and its employees for her care.

While at Symphony, Ms. Watanabe developed dementia. Symphony staff then began to plunder her savings. Criminal charges are pending against 2 of the employees. We are confident of receiving a recovery in our civil lawsuit.

The Japanese-American community in Chicago has been incredibly supportive. Dozens of people from the community have attended every court proceeding to show their support for Ms. Watanabe and demand justice for her. They have arranged for deliveries of Ms. Watanabe’s favorite foods to her, and regularly send her cards.

The party was a wonderful celebration of a remarkable person, and Ms. Watanabe had a good time.

Yesterday we celebrated the 100th birthday of Grace Watanabe, a remarkable woman under our guardianship. Her story has made the national news and been a source of inspiration to many. We continue to litigate our lawsuit against Symphony Nursing Home to recover the $750,000 that its staff stole from Ms. Watanabe when she was a resident there.

Ms. Watanabe, who is of Japanese ancestry, spent four years at the Poston internment camp in Arizona during World War II even though she was born in California and has always been a U.S. citizen. She was in her 20s at the time. After the war Ms. Watanabe moved to Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She then moved to Washington, DC, where she spent more than three decades in service to the federal government as an employee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ms. Watanabe was frugal and disciplined about saving for her retirement. She returned to Chicago when she retired.

In 2009, Ms. Watanabe experienced a fall and her health started to decline. By then she had no living family. Recognizing that she needed assistance and could not live alone, she moved to Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, and relied on Symphony and its employees for her care.

While at Symphony, Ms. Watanabe developed dementia. Symphony staff then began to plunder her savings. Criminal charges are pending against 2 of the employees. We are confident of receiving a recovery in our civil lawsuit.

The Japanese-American community in Chicago has been incredibly supportive. Dozens of people from the community have attended every court proceeding to show their support for Ms. Watanabe and demand justice for her. They have arranged for deliveries of Ms. Watanabe’s favorite foods to her, and regularly send her cards.

The party was a wonderful celebration of a remarkable person, and Ms. Watanabe had a good time.

Project Rainbow is a new Cook County Government initiative to address learning loss magnified by COVID-19 with free earl...
08/20/2021
Project Rainbow: The Letter R!

Project Rainbow is a new Cook County Government initiative to address learning loss magnified by COVID-19 with free early childhood and family programming through the County TV station and a new mobile app. Programming will air on Cook County’s cable channel (channel 22/900 on Comcast) at 10 A.M. and repeat at 4 P.M., Monday through Friday. The content will also be available on-demand through a mobile app that will be available soon from the Google Play store the Apple Store in the coming weeks. Programming will provide literacy enrichment videos for early childhood learners, geared specifically for 3- to 6-year-olds. The curriculum will be visually imagined by the award-winning Chicago Children's Theatre team.

You can watch the first episode on the letter "R" below, and for more information about project rainbow you can visit https://projectrainbow.cookcountyil.gov/.

Project Rainbow is proud to present todays episode: The Letter RThis video is part of Project Rainbow.

Public Guardian Charles Golbert has a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune about the alarmingly low staff vaccina...
08/18/2021

Public Guardian Charles Golbert has a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune about the alarmingly low staff vaccination rates at some area nursing homes. For example, Symphony at 87th Street in Chicago has a staff vaccination rate of less than 5%. This home is part of the same Symphony chain we are suing to recover the $750,000 that staff stole from Grace Watanabe, a case that has made national news. In the letter, Golbert argues that the immunities from liability for injury or death to nursing home residents due to COVID-19 that Governor JB Pritzker implemented last year via an executive order should not apply to nursing homes that fail to ensure meaningful staff vaccination. You can read the letter here:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/letters/ct-letters-vp-081921-20210818-c7sntywhxfbnthechpnl2lykme-story.html

Public Guardian Charles Golbert has a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune about the alarmingly low staff vaccination rates at some area nursing homes. For example, Symphony at 87th Street in Chicago has a staff vaccination rate of less than 5%. This home is part of the same Symphony chain we are suing to recover the $750,000 that staff stole from Grace Watanabe, a case that has made national news. In the letter, Golbert argues that the immunities from liability for injury or death to nursing home residents due to COVID-19 that Governor JB Pritzker implemented last year via an executive order should not apply to nursing homes that fail to ensure meaningful staff vaccination. You can read the letter here:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/letters/ct-letters-vp-081921-20210818-c7sntywhxfbnthechpnl2lykme-story.html

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