SPRINGFIELD (WIFR) – The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services announced the launch today of a computerized, state-of-the-art Child Abuse Hotline system, responding to complaints that its 30-year-old system was unable to handle the more than 250,000 calls reporting child abuse and neglect that DCFS receives each year.
Last year the department received 253,444 calls to its hotline at (800) 25-ABUSE, but the outdated system meant more than 60 percent of callers had to be called back rather than speaking immediately to a child abuse expert. The delays meant longer gaps in sending child abuse investigators into the field and getting children and families the help they need, a condition which new DCFS Director Richard Calica called “simply unacceptable.”
“The hotline is the front door of the department, and that front door needs to be open every minute of every day of the year,” says Calica. “Replacing our old system is a smart investment that moves us one step closer to ensuring that every child in Illinois is as safe as possible.”
DCFS is currently working with lawmakers for both chambers and both sides of the aisle to reallocate $38,048,200 to the department’s budget for frontline staff, to ensure that once hotline calls are received, the department can investigate allegations of abuse and neglect as quickly as possible. The reorganization plan also includes additional staff to help coordinate services that enable kids to remain at home safely, recruit and support foster families when children must be removed from the home, and support adoption into permanent, loving families when reunification simply is not an option.
“Lawmakers share our goal of protecting children and families, and this reorganization plan will help ensure that children and families get the help they need, particularly in areas outside of the Chicago region where child abuse reports are rising,” says Calica.