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Reform of state foster child system to launch in Lake County

Posted November 26

— A state effort aimed at reducing the time foster children spend in temporary placements in Illinois is being launched in Lake County.

A court-appointed panel developed the plan that localizes decision making and emphasizes keeping families together, according to the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2gD4DS9).

"It is not normal to grow up in foster care," Department of Children and Family Services director George Sheldon said. "It is not normal to have your parents change every eight hours in an institution. It's not normal to move from one placement ... to another placement, even if those are all good placements. That child begins to believe they don't belong anywhere."

Lake County immersion site director Norma Machay said the department will host twice-monthly meetings for those involved in the process to discuss challenges and obstacles in the foster care system and develop concrete solutions. Machay said these meetings could involve foster and birth parents, case workers and local service providers connected to child care.

Claire Stewart, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois' Institutional Reform Project, said the plan aims to increase the availability of mental health services in the community, as well as start therapeutic foster homes for kids with mental and behavioral health issues.

DCFS associate director Pete Digre said the state of Illinois ranks 50th in getting kids into permanent placements in a timely manner.

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