Parental Addiction Treatment Improves Child Welfare Outcomes: TASC President Pam Rodriguez at Capitol Hill Briefing

(Chicago) – TASC President Pam Rodriguez shared highlights of Illinois’ successful Recovery Coach program at a December 3 Capitol Hill briefing focused on issues and solutions in child welfare reform.

In partnership with the offices of U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Children and Family Futures hosted the briefing, entitled The Elephant in the Room: Access to Substance Abuse Treatment—A Cornerstone of Child Welfare Reform. With an audience encompassing Congressional staff, policymakers, and child welfare advocates, the briefing highlighted the role of substance use disorders in the child welfare system and what works to better serve affected children and their families.

Rodriguez presented lessons and outomes from Illinois’ Recovery Coach program, which addresses substance use disorders among parents whose children have been removed from custody due to substance-related maltreatment. The program began in 2000, funded through a Title IV-E waiver granted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). TASC has provided services for the Recovery Coach program since its inception in Cook County in 2000, as well as in Madison and St. Clair counties since the program expanded in 2007.

Links between childhood maltreatment and delinquency. There is growing understanding of the connection between child maltreatment and later delinquency, and the crossover of children who are involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Young people involved in these systems face a host of complex challenges, which may include trauma, educational difficulties, mental health conditions, sexual abuse, and the instability of group homes or foster care placement.

TASC works with DCFS to help stabilize children in care and reduce young people’s likelihood of becoming involved in the justice system.

Intensive outreach and case management. Through the Recovery Coach program, TASC works with the parent, child welfare caseworker, and alcohol/drug treatment agency to remove barriers to treatment, engage the parent in treatment, provide outreach to re-engage the parent if necessary, and provide ongoing support to the parent and family through the duration of the child welfare case.

As Rodriguez explained in the briefing, the program draws on research pointing to the complex needs of parents involved in child welfare and justice systems. For example, a 2014 needs assessment report by the Center for Children and Family Futures for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention synthesized hundreds of Family Drug Court surveys, stakeholder interviews, and more than 2,500 technical assistance requests from all 50 states.

Among Family Drug Courts, services for parents were consistently identified as priorities. Systems must recognize and respond to complex and multiple needs arising from trauma, dual-diagnosis, and domestic violence; responses include engagement and retention strategies, recovery supports, and serving parents in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The report also found that sustainability of funding and cross-system knowledge emerge as consistently-cited needs among jurisdictions and stakeholders.

Rodriguez noted that the Recovery Coach program’s success comes from not only the direct services to parents, but also the understanding of and attention to the cross-systems issues that influence outcomes. Further, the program provides a response to the opiate crisis that is affecting child welfare systems.

“With the rise in heroin use across the country, even more children are being removed from their homes and placed in foster care,” said Rodriguez. “By working with systems to address complex issues around addiction, programs like Recovery Coach and Family Drug Courts make it possible to safely return many affected children.”

Effectiveness and cost savings. A 2012 in-depth program evaluation by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that parents with a TASC recovery coach were more likely to access treatment, and children whose parents had recovery coaches were more likely to be safely reunified with their parents.

Furthermore, children whose parents had recovery coaches were significantly less likely to be associated with a subsequent juvenile arrest.

In addition, according to the March 2015 semi-annual progress report released by DCFS, the Recovery Coach program has generated more than $10 million in savings for the State of Illinois since the program began in 2000. These savings come from significantly higher rates of family reunification, resulting in fewer youth in the system, as well as quicker reunification, resulting in fewer days spent in foster care.

TASC is a statewide, independent case management and care coordination agency in Illinois, annually serving 27,000 individuals referred by criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems.

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ABTC, TASC Open Renovated Reentry Home for Juveniles in Douglas Park

(Chicago, IL) – Alternative Behavior Treatment Centers (ABTC) and Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) have opened the Douglas Park Transitional Living Program for youth. The program is designed to facilitate safe community reentry for youth who have been in detention by helping them build pro-social living skills and reconnect with their families or positive support networks.

Home Depot volunteer Phillip Richard completes installation of floor tile.

Located at 1335 S. California Avenue in Chicago, the 10-bed, juvenile justice transitional living program will serve young people from ages 15 to 21. The project is a public-private partnership made possible by grants, in-kind product donations and volunteer resources from the State of Illinois, The Home Depot Foundation and The Home Depot.

“We are grateful to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for helping to develop this program,” said Robin McGinnis, founder and CEO of ABTC. “We are also so appreciative of the work that volunteers from The Home Depot have done to renovate this home to help get kids safely back into their community. There’s no way we could have done this without their support.”

“All of us at The Home Depot are very honored to work on this project,” said Andy Christiansen, store manager for the Mundelein Home Depot, noting that volunteers have donated more than 500 hours to create a home-like living environment for the youth in the program. “We especially want to thank our volunteers and 11 stores within our district that have been working hard to make this happen.”

Pamela Rodriguez, president of TASC, added that a safe living environment is crucial for young people who are trying to establish a positive life. “We know that young people need safety and support, and sometimes they haven’t experienced a stable living environment until they come to a program like this. From here, we can help them establish their footing as they restart their lives on a more positive path.”

ABTC graduate Cavelle Lewis speaks with Univision reporter Erika Maldonado at opening of the Douglas Park Transitional Living Program for youth.

ABTC was founded in 1995 as a non-profit adolescent treatment agency to work with youth identified as difficult to manage and in need of residential care. Today ABTC operates numerous programs along a continuum of care for children, adolescents, families, and adults located throughout Illinois.

TASC has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. The agency serves nearly 20,000 adults and adolescents annually in criminal justice, juvenile justice, and family health programs across Illinois.

(Photos by D. Baille)

DCFS Restores Funds Previously Cut from TASC’s Child Welfare Programs; DHS Funding Cuts Hurting Thousands

(Chicago) — The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has taken the lead in restoring funding to vital human services. Having sent notification in mid-June that TASC’c child welfare programs were being zeroed out, DCFS has restored funds to TASC and other service providers to FY09 contract levels.

TASC’s child welfare staff in Cook County and in Southern Illinois, who had been laid off as of July 1, were called back to work on July 6. Now, these workers are reaching out to the 600+ parents and adolescents who were cut from services at the end of June. The financial and clinical toll of the service disruption will likely not be calculable.

An emergency motion filed by the ACLU argued that a reduction in services would be in violation of a consent decree under which DCFS operates. U.S. District Court Judge John F. Grady concurred, ordering that “the state comply with all provisions of the consent decree, including: maintaining all programs and services that DCFS directs to fulfill the detailed requirements of the consent decree” (MSN Money, June 30, 2009).

 It is a partial victory for thousands in need, yet communities across the state continue to deal with the fallout from the ongoing budget calamity.

“We are pleased that children and families will again have access to our life-changing child welfare services,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “But this represents only a sliver of the funding that needs to be restored. Thousands of individuals remain in crisis – and each day that passes increases the overall cost to our state and taxpaying citizens.”

TASC’s court-based services, which are funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services, have been slashed by 75 percent, and TASC’s community reentry services, funded by the Illinois Department of Corrections, have been cut 25 percent.

One hundred thirty-nine DHS-funded TASC staff are on a two-week unpaid furlough until July 15. More than 1,500 clients have been terminated prematurely from TASC services, and another 1,000 are currently on wait lists across the state.

TASC’s court services, currently suspended, will resume on July 16. The scope and scale of TASC’s service delivery over the coming months remains in question, depending on the timing and the outcome of the budget negotiations in Springfield.

“TASC will continue to aggressively advocate on behalf of the people and communities we serve,” said Ms. Rodriguez. “Now more than ever, as the very infrastructure that serves tens of thousands of Illinoisans is being dismantled, our clients need our strong voices on their behalf.”

The legislature, led by Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, is due to convene in a joint special session on Tuesday, July 14.

Children & Parents Lose TASC Services; Dozens of TASC Staff Furloughed and Laid Off; Still No State Budget Resolution in Sight for Quinn, Cullerton, Madigan, Cross, Radogno

(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

Marc Smith, Child Welfare Advocate

Marc Smith, Child Welfare Advocate

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.

“What’s most heartbreaking is to see parents who are on their way to recovery, and on their way to getting their kids back, and they’re being cut off so abruptly” says Mr. Smith. “Nobody cares for them the way our Recovery Coaches care for them. They (the parents) can’t believe that the only people who’ve ever given them hope will be leaving their lives in six days.”

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.

WBEZ Interviews TASC on Budget Cuts; Quinn, Cullerton, Madigan, Radogno and Cross Still Deadlocked

(Chicago, IL) —  “We have never been in this kind of situation before.”

That’s a big statement when it’s spoken by TASC President Melody Heaps, who has seen numerous state budget battles in her 33 years at the helm of TASC. 

TASC received budget cut letters this week from the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The letters announced that TASC’s statewide services for criminal justice clients are cut 76%, and TASC’s child welfare services are zeroed out completely.

The back-breaking cuts to TASC, substance abuse treatment programs, and numerous other human service agencies are set to take effect July 1.

Rob Wildeboer, reporter for Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ, 91.5 FM) interviewed Ms. Heaps on Wednesday.* Given that this is not the first time that human services have faced potential budget cuts, Mr. Wildeboer asked if the current uproar is saber rattling.

“This is not saber rattling,” Ms. Heaps emphasized. “These are the facts.”

Ms. Heaps explained that because funding for TASC’s criminal justice and child welfare programs is severely curtailed or eliminated as of July 1, TASC has no choice but to halt intake and begin notifying clients that services are stopped. The statewide agency is currently in the process of terminating assessment, case management, and supervision of some 3,000 clients across Illinois, including nearly 1,200 court-mandated clients in Cook County.

Courts will become backlogged, addiction-driven crime will increase, and the costs of dealing with addiction will be shifted to county jails and hospitals.

In addition, parents who are working to overcome addiction and regain custody of their children will no longer have the services of TASC’s Recovery Coach program. Without treatment for parents, more children will remain wards of the state.

“These budget cuts undermine the very purpose of TASC, and they undo decades of work by the courts and treatment system in Illinois,” said TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez. “They are an affront to every judge who relies on community-based treatment as a sentencing option for nonviolent offenders, to every child advocate who helps to heal families affected by addiction, and to every taxpayer who believes in the efficient use of public dollars to maintain community safety.”

Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross met again on Wednesday, though state budget talks remain at an impasse.

The General Assembly will convene in a special legislative session in Springfield beginning next Tuesday, June 23.

* Note:  TASC does not provide drug treatment, as reported in the WBEZ story. TASC is an independent, nonprofit entity whose criminal justice programs link the criminal justice system to community-based drug treatment.  As the agency designated by the state pursuant to Chapter 20 ILCS 301/40, TASC provides clinical assessment, treatment placement, and ongoing case management and client supervision. 

TASC clients have significantly better outcomes, in terms of reduced crime and reduced drug use, than individuals who do not get TASC.

IL Budget Cuts Wipe Out TASC Child Welfare Services; Quinn, Cullerton, Madigan, Radogno, Cross Meet; Special Session To Begin 6/23

(Chicago, IL)Fifty-percent budget cuts to human services across Illinois are devastating. To substance abuse treatment and case management programs, a 50-percent cut would not be remotely acceptable — but it would be an improvement. 

Most substance abuse treatment agencies funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Alcoholism and Substance (DHS/DASA) received letters this week announcing 72-76 percent cuts to their programs. TASC was among these.

The doomsday budget cuts are set to take effect July 1. With no assurance that the budget will be resolved soon, social service agencies are making plans for program closures and staff furloughs or layoffs.

Cuts Fly in Face of TASC’s Cost-Saving Child Welfare Programs 

Child welfare programs also are being slashed, including TASC’s child welfare and family services.

TASC’s Recovery Coach program for parents, offered under the leadership of the llinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), has been enormously successful, saving the state more than $5 million over a 5-year period. However, this program too faces elimination under the FY10 state budget as it stands.

The Recovery Coach program works with men and women who have lost custody of their children due to the parent’s addiction. Through the program, parents receive treatment, intensive case management, parenting skills training, and other services that will allow for family reunification. Without this program and without treatment, parents like Kim and Janice are likely to permanently lose custody of their children. 

Special Legislative Session Will Begin Tuesday, June 23

Once again on Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross met.  Following the meeting, Senator Cullerton announced that a special legislative session will begin next Tuesday.

View legislative leaders’ post-meeting comments on the Capitol Fax blog.

It is long past time for the state budget to be settled. We call on the Governor and legislative leaders to restore funding to these vital, cost-saving services immediately.