(Chicago) — Multiple news reports have implied that June 30 is the deadline for Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, House Minority Leader Tom Cross and the remainder of the General Assembly to straighten out the state’s budget.
In fact, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and Department of Corrections (DOC) sent out notification last week of the massive budget cuts to human services, and many agencies, including TASC, already have been forced to slash workforces and terminate services to clients.
For the first time in TASC’s 33-year history, staff furlough notices went out today. Some 140 staff across Illinois will be without work and without pay for two weeks beginning July 1, and an additional 51 are being laid off.
Cuts Tragic to Parents and Children
Hardest hit at TASC so far have been the agency’s child welfare services, which are eliminated. Nearly 500 parents and youth under the care and supervision of the DCFS-funded Recovery Coach and System of Care programs are being notified this week that they will no longer receive critical housing stabilization and family reunification services.
All 51 TASC child welfare program staff in Cook County and in Southern Illinois are jobless as of July 1. Among them are single parents, individuals with health issues, grandparents who are caretakers of young children, and many others for whom the loss of employment creates untold hardship – not to mention the hardship confronting clients for whom TASC’s services are life-changing. (Without TASC, parents like Janice and Kim will likely lose permanent custody of their children.)
The Recovery Coach program is a highly successful program of intensive outreach to parents who have lost custody of their children due to the parent’s addiction. TASC Recovery Coaches work very closely with parents to ensure that they receive necessary treatment services, counseling, and skills training to become healthy and responsible parents.
Without TASC’s intensive outreach, clinical services, and advocacy, most are likely to lose their children for good. Their children will remain in foster care – or receive little to no care at all – at a greater financial cost to the state and a catastrophic human toll to children and their families.
In-depth research on the Recovery Coach program shows that parents in the program are more likely than others involved in DCFS to enter substance abuse treatment, complete treatment, and achieve family reunification.
The System of Care program works with young children and teenagers who have had particularly difficult placements in foster care due to the youth’s mental health issues, past physical and sexual abuse, and other circumstances that make life especially challenging for them and their foster parents. In this program, TASC provides an array of outreach and clinical services to ensure that young people are stabilized in safe and permanent living situations rather than being bounced from foster home to foster home or group homes.
Both programs are gone. It will take intervention and action at the highest levels of Illinois government for services to return.
Program Cuts Cost the State Millions in Federal Aid
What is most difficult to understand about these budget cuts, for many, is that they are inexplicable from both a human standpoint and a financial standpoint. “TASC’s Recovery Coach program has proven to be the most successful family reunification program in Illinois,” according to Marc Smith, who oversees TASC’s child welfare services. “And most bewildering is that the program does not cost the state a penny. Any money that the state puts into it comes back directly from the federal government. It is free to the state.”
In fact, the program saved the state more than $5 million in its first five years, and has remained a cost saver.
Says TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez, “Many have suggested that the Governor’s budget is a ploy, a tactic to raise alarm. This is no false alarm — it is real. Real people are being furloughed or laid off. Real clients will not get services and be in jail or prison or face termination of parental rights. We are not playing a game — we are fighting to provide services, to save lives.”
Though severe damage to children and families is already being inflicted, these catastrophic cuts can be reversed. The General Assembly has not completed its work on the FY10 budget.
Look up your Illinois state legislators here.