ILLINOIS (WGN) — A scathing new report from the Illinois Auditor General finds the state’s child welfare agency is failing to take basic steps to track the health and safety of kids in its care.

The audit found the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services was unable to provide required home safety checklists in 98% of cases it reviewed.  58% of cases lacked documentation demonstrating families were provided aftercare services.

“This is one of the main things we do as a state and it’s our job to protect the children and in this case, it needs some improvement,”  Auditor General Frank Mautino said. 

Staffing shortages have also plagued DCFS in recent years. The audit found 21% of the agency’s funded positions were vacant and its organizational chart was so confusing, that it’s unclear which positions were actually necessary. 

A DCFS spokesperson says a recent hiring spree has resulted in 97% of funded positions now being filled; however, he conceded that an onslaught of as many as 1,000 new cases per month in the last year means the agency is still struggling to have enough caseworkers and investigators.

The audit also found large numbers of children in DCFS care did not have documentation that they had received appropriate health care visits and vaccinations. 

WGN Investigates has previously reported on a shortage of emergency shelter space so severe kids were forced to sleep in office space that was being used as an unlicensed shelter.  Hundreds of kids were also forced to stay in psychiatric hospitals weeks longer than was medically necessary due to a shortage of appropriate placements.

Cook County Judge Patrick Murphy has repeatedly found DCFS acting director Mark Smith in contempt of court for his agency’s failure to find kids safe and appropriate places to stay.   

Click here to read the Auditor General’s Report. 

DCFS released the following statement in response to the audit:

“The Department of Children and Family Services has taken aggressive measures to improve the services and care provided to youth in care during the past three years.  We have trained thousands of workers, expanded resources to support the child welfare system and addressed the many hiring and staffing challenges facing child welfare organizations. DCFS had previously identified that its outdated data tracking systems limited its ability to track new requirements. As a result, DCFS was already undertaking significant steps to address these issues, including a complete replacement of the department’s child welfare information systems. DCFS works diligently to provide resources and guidance to its staff and external partners to continue its work of protecting vulnerable children and strengthen families.”