Democrats send altered Child Death Review Team Act to governor's desk
Changing up leadership and opening confidential records goes against GOP beliefs.
Introduced during the May 29 House floor debate, SB 2407, which is sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), would amend the Child Death Review Team Act by mandating that the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Children and Family Services appoint members to the child death review team. Currently, the sitting director of the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) appoints the members.
Starting the debate, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) noted DCFS’s opposition to the bill after it came out of the Human Services Committee with a partisan roll call of 7-5.
Hoffman, however, said that after the way the department has acted recently, he does not see how it can be opposed to the bill.
“I think you can make that statement about DCFS at almost anytime in the last 10 or 15 years,” Breen said. “When you say recent activities, it’s like which ones?”
Breen wanted to know why Hoffman felt that the Office of the Inspector General, rather than the DCFS director, should appoint members.
“They don’t necessarily have the expertise or ability to run this council,” Breen said.
Hoffman said the suggestion was brought to him by a doctor, who was an original member of the team, and other members, who do not feel that DCFS has been responsive to their needs.
Though satisfied with the answer, Breen then questioned the part of the bill that broadens the review of all confidential documents, asking why an amendment suggested by DCFS was not added to the legislation. Hoffman apologized for not receiving the proposed amendment, but he pointed out that there has been no history of information abuse in the past.
“For them to make recommendations about child deaths in the future, they need access to information,” Hoffman said.
After Breen shared his concern for going against DCFS in a partisan manner, Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) pointed out that there has been a constant turnover of DCFS directors during the last five years, as opposed to the consistency of inspector generals.
She said that while she understands the GOP's concern with apparent partisanship, there is no time for it when it comes to children.
“Anything we can do to bring stability to the department is important,” Wallace said.
Coming to the GOP's defense, Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale) spoke about the bill.
“We all care about the children in DCFS and want to make them safe,” Bellock said.
The head of DCFS should still appoint members, she added.
“Additionally, we feel [that] there should be open information to everyone on the death review team, because there already is a staff member from DCFS that is aware of that information upon request,” Bellock said. "That is why we have serious concerns about this bill and voted no."
But like the partisan committee vote Breen noted, the same occurred on the House floor with SB 2407. The bill passed 77-40, with most GOP members voting against it. Two days later, on May 31, the Senate voted 52-0, which sent the bill to the governor’s desk.