Another Perspective on DCFS Highlights Complexity, Challenge – Shaw Local

There are two truths in all stories. At least.

Wednesday’s column included thoughts on structural issues with the Department of Children and Family Services from McHenry County Council Deputy Speaker Carolyn Schofield, the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s running mate and former State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo.

Among the ideas she emailed: “Develop a child-centric system rather than family reunification. The child must have rights. Currently, parental rights prevail over those of the child.

This thought echoed when I encountered the work of Dorothy Roberts, a professor of law, sociology, and civil rights at the University of Pennsylvania, who has written extensively on the child welfare system. Among those books is “Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare,” which she wrote 20 years ago while on the faculty of Northwestern University.

Although it is impossible to summarize his many writings in this short space, Roberts makes compelling arguments to promote family unity and frames his proposals around the fight against poverty. She said neglect pushes children into foster care twice as often as physical abuse and suggests investing in broader social protection programs for an approach that removes children from their homes and , in many cases, terminates parental rights, “freeing up” children for adoption.

We can look no further than the pages of this journal for examples of how the state has failed children and families in a variety of circumstances and in myriad ways, and in these and countless other stories are found the threads of truth that inform the larger talking points framing political debate. We can fail children by allowing them to stay in homes with neglectful parents. By taking them away from a mother who called the police to report an abusive partner. By ignoring obvious signs of physical or mental distress. Sending them to institutions where they are expected to conform instead of recover.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of Schofield or Roberts, and I guess they both just want the best for the kids. But it doesn’t take deep thought to realize the difficulties of crafting systemic solutions to problems at the level of the individual family.

Lest this be seen as a criticism of Schofield, here is a full endorsement of the words from his email which I did not share on Wednesday:

“One of my biggest concerns is that everyone is coming up with their own solution and when we asked them to work together they just want their proposal to be heard,” she wrote. “Instead of lawmakers having these conversations, we should be elevating the conversations with foster families, advocates and children who have been impacted by the shortcomings of our system and using their recommendations drawn from real-world experience to provide the solution.”

Legislators alone rarely solve anything. The best realize this and act accordingly.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Sharon D. Cole