April 26, 2019 – When we first learned about his appointment as the new director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), I asked all of Aunt Martha’s employees, as well as the friends of our organization, to offer their encouragement and support to our former coworker, Marc Smith. None of us can truly understand the pressure or challenges now-Director Smith is facing in this new role. I think we all agree, however, that there is no one better suited to overcome those challenges, and to do so in a way that always makes the safety of Illinois’ children – our children – the top priority.
Today is likely to be a difficult day for Director Smith and the Department he has now been entrusted to lead. Earlier this morning, we learned that Director Smith will appear before the House Appropriations – Human Service Committee in Chicago this afternoon. The official purpose of the hearing is related to the budgets requested by the state’s various agencies, including DCFS. At least one of the Committee’s members has already stated publicly their intent to ask questions surrounding the details of the horrible death suffered by a 5-year-old boy in McHenry County. We also believe he will be asked about the Department’s involvement with the boy and his family, as well as the deaths of several DCFS youth that occurred before his appointment. Although Director Smith has held his position less than two full weeks, it is him who now has to speak for an agency that has a far too long history of challenges.
Regardless of past experience, those kinds of questions are never easy to answer. We should all feel fortunate, however, to know that Director Smith is the person who will not only be answering those difficult questions, but also leading what will no doubt be multiple efforts to reform the child welfare system from the ground-up.
I ask that all of us keep Director Smith in our thoughts this afternoon as he responds to the many questions that will be posed to him. I also ask that we all remain highly attuned to the heightened awareness of the vulnerability and needs of DCFS youth – of every child – whether they be in our community or in our care. Their safety and well-being is our shared responsibility. It is a responsibility we share with Director Smith, with the Department, with our friends and neighbors, and with one another.