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.

TASC Honors Legal Action Center President Paul Samuels and WGN News Anchor Bob Jordan

(Chicago) — Moving stories of parents in prison, uplifting images of their recovery and family reunification, an energized room of 340 guests, and inspiring words from respected leaders. These were some of the highlights of TASC’s 2013 Leadership Awards Luncheon, which took place December 11 and honored Legal Action Center President Paul Samuels and WGN-TV Anchor Robert H. Jordan, Jr.

Each year, TASC’s Leadership Awards Luncheon celebrates the outstanding leadership of those who consistently demonstrate innovation and courage in addressing some of society’s most pervasive challenges.

TASC President Pamela Rodriguez presented this year’s TASC Justice Leadership Award to Samuels, who has dedicated his career to justice and fairness. He leads the New York-based Legal Action Center, whose mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas. Rodriguez praised the exceptional team of individuals and partners that Samuels has brought together as president of the Legal Action Center, noting that, “For more than 30 years, Paul Samuels has established himself and the organization he directs as one of the preeminent leaders in efforts dedicated to justice and fairness, particularly for people with substance use disorders.”

“This is all about teamwork and collaboration,” emphasized Samuels. “We couldn’t do anything that really mattered without all of you, everybody in this room, TASC, and all the other advocates and service providers and people around the country.” Samuels said he was “in awe of the work that TASC does,” referencing the organization’s direct services for nearly 29,000 people each year, and continued, “I am also very familiar with the terrific public policy work that you do in addition to all the direct services work, and in all these intersecting areas of drug policy, mental health, health care financing, diversion, alternatives to incarceration, community reentry, juvenile justice. It’s just amazing the work that all of you have done to build TASC into a powerhouse organization, not just in Illinois. It’s nationally renowned for its leadership, creativity, and cutting edge work. It’s truly an honor to receive an award from you.”

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca presented TASC’s 2013 Public Voice Leadership Award to Jordan, who frequently covers issues related to criminal justice and health, including a special hour-long program last year dedicated to community solutions to youth violence.

“It was Bob’s search to better understand the complex issues of youth, violence, community safety, and their possible connections to addiction and mental illness which brought TASC and Bob Jordan together,” said Palanca. “His powerful curiosity and commitment to uncover, understand, and address the complicated—sometimes messy—social realities at the root of the news story, his leadership in bringing these discussions to a public forum, and his willingness to personally connect people, services and resources together. This is exactly what this award is about.”

In accepting his award, Jordan recounted a recent story of a young person who had gotten in trouble with the law, and whose life had been turned around with TASC’s help. Jordan said, “It shows how we all are connected somehow to this immense problem of people making mistakes, doing [stupid] things that can just ruin their lives, and we all have seen it happen. So we know that there has to be some coordinated effort with judges, with programs like TASC, with agencies that work together, and with our legislature and trying to work on adjusting our laws, and our own selves in adjusting the way we think about how we’re going to deal with this enormous problem.”

Samuels summed up the problem: “In the 90s the war on drugs turned into a war on drug users—or, more accurately, on people of color and poor people who use drugs, or who were just suspected of using drugs. Our nation’s public policies emphasize mass incarceration, mostly of young, African American and Latino men, even though whites use drugs even more, by most studies, than people of color. And our policies also put forward the horrible notion of permanent punishment of people convicted or even arrested for a drug offense. The list of barriers that have been put in place are horrifying, too long to list. They include denying people employment in a broad range of fields because of a criminal history and/or an addiction history, evicting people from public housing, and not even letting them visit their families.”

TASC has a 37-year history of providing program and policy responses to these challenges, with a steady track record of facilitating clients’ success and reducing recidivism. “TASC has an unwavering commitment to our communities and clients, our partner agencies and institutions—and to excellence,” said TASC Board Chair Marcia Lipetz. “We know our programs work because we rely on evidence-based practice.”

Founded in Cook County in 1976, TASC is a statewide, nonprofit agency that serves adults and youth who have substance use or mental health problems and who are involved in courts, jails, prisons, or foster care. TASC’s Center for Health and Justice provides national consultation and public policy solutions in health and justice.

Mark your calendars: TASC’s 2014 luncheon will take place on December 10 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Twitter @TASC_CHJ

Statewide Criminal Justice Association Names Director: Edna R. Lee Takes Helm of Justice Advocacy Group

(Chicago) – The Illinois Association for Criminal Justice (IACJ) has named Oak Park resident Edna R. Lee as its inaugural director. Founded in 2010, IACJ is a membership group of criminal justice researchers, advocates, and service providers in Illinois.

Ms. Lee comes to IACJ with more than 25 years of experience in leadership of community-based organizations and correctional programs, including managing offender reentry and employment services within the Crossroads and North Lawndale Adult Transition Centers (ATCs).

“As Illinois seeks answers to reduce prison overcrowding while maintaining public safety, IACJ’s role in positively impacting public policy decisions is more important than ever,” said Diane Williams, president of the Safer Foundation and president of IACJ. “Edna Lee brings a wealth of practical experience, knowledge, and political acumen that will help advance necessary criminal justice reforms in Illinois.”

Prior to joining IACJ, Lee led Positive Anti-Crime Thrust (PACT), which develops community-based programs to interact with police, courts, and corrections to reduce crime. During her career, Lee also has administered numerous programs that serve individuals involved in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The mission of IACJ is to ensure quality, comprehensive and coordinated services for people with criminal histories. Through public advocacy and community capacity- building, IACJ promotes the use of proven practices to reduce recidivism and restore individuals to stability and productivity within their communities.

IACJ currently has 286 individual and organizational members across Illinois. The Association was founded by the Safer Foundation; Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.); Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies; and University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work. The IACJ also would like to acknowledge the support of The Chicago Community Trust, which, for nearly 100 years, has connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago.

For more information about the IACJ, please visit

Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation to Honor Partners in Drug Abuse Prevention; Illinois Governor Pat Quinn Scheduled to Attend

10/11/12 Awards Ceremony and Symposium on Stigma in Prevention: TASC’s Peter Palanca will moderate and Tommie Johnson will be recognized

(Chicago, IL) — Illinios Governor Pat Quinn is scheduled to attend the inaugural awards ceremony and symposium on stigma in drug prevention which will be held at Roosevelt University on Thursday, October 11, 2012 from 3 pm to 5:45 pm, followed by a networking reception. This event is free and open to the public. Please register here.

Author and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg will deliver the keynote speech and share his own struggles with alcohol, followed by a panel discussion with a team of experts on substance use, abuse, and stigma. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker will emcee the event, and TASC’s Peter Palanca will moderate.

Ten individuals from across the state of Illinois will be recognized by the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation the as Outstanding Preventionists of the year. Among the award recipients, Rev. Tommie Johnson, recovery support services coordinator for TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) will be honored for his “Outside the Walls” ministry and his exceptional dedication to prevention and services for people who have been incarcerated.

Where: Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, 10th Floor, Auditorium (Murray Green) Library
When: Thursday, October 11, 2012 from 3 pm to 5:45 pm, with networking following Cost: Free and open to the public. Advance registration is requested:

The panel discussion will include:

  • Peter Palanca (Moderator), Executive Vice President, TASC, Inc.
  • Neil Steinberg, Writer, Chicago Sun-Times and author of Drunkard: A Hard Drinking Life
  • Sara Howe, CEO, Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA)
  • Dr. Celeste Napier, Professor, Department of Pharmacology at Rush University and Director of the Research and Recovery Center for Compulsive Behaviors and Addiction
  • Dr. Kristina Peterson, Assistant Professor of Counseling and Human Services, Roosevelt University
  • Ed Stellon, MS, MA, CADC, senior director of Heartland Center for Systems Change at Heartland Health Outreach

For professionals who register, two CEUs and CPDUs will be available. The event is co-sponsored by the Cebrin Goodman Center and Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy and College of Education.

The Cebrin Goodman Center has awarded millions of dollars in grants to local and national teen drug prevention programs. Ten years ago, Lillian and Larry Goodman’s granddaughter Cebrin lost her battle with drug addiction. “Educating teens, parents, and communities about substance abuse is the answer,” said Larry Goodman, chairman. “Our mission is to spare other families the pain of losing a loved one.”

Rev. Tommie Johnson inspires attendees at “Outside the Walls: A Day of Family Unity and Community Reconciliation,” September 2012

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Visits HRDI and TASC Services

(Chicago, IL)— Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) met recently with staff and clients from the Human Resources Development Institute (HRDI) and Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC).  HRDI and TASC are among several nonprofit organizations that work together to provide substance abuse treatment and case management services for Illinois residents with complex social, health, and economic needs.

HRDI President Joel Johnson led Congressman Jackson’s tour of two HRDI treatment facilities in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, expressing appreciation for the Congressman’s support of treatment and recovery services in his role as a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

Working with a statewide network of licensed treatment programs such as HRDI, TASC places nonviolent, court-mandated clients into treatment as an alternative to incarceration, offers ongoing case management and client advocacy, and provides reports to judges and other referring entities. Statewide, TASC significantly improves clients’ success in treatment. Criminal justice clients who receive TASC case management and monitoring services are twice as likely to complete treatment as other criminal justice-referred clients who do not receive TASC services.

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. speaks to staff and clients of HRDI and TASC. Photo by TASC staff.


IACJ to Honor U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Danny K. Davis, IL Senator Mattie Hunter and IL Senator Kwame Raoul for Criminal Justice and Racial Justice Legislation

(Chicago, IL) —  Supporters of criminal justice reform are invited to join the Illinois Association for Criminal Justice (IACJ) in honoring legislators who have demonstrated key leadership in advancing racial and criminal justice.

IACJ’s awards will be presented at the Safer Foundation, 571 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 3:00 p.m.

  • The association will recognize the work of:U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, for sponsoring the Fair Sentencing Act, signed into law in 2010, which reduces the sentencing disparity in mandatory penalties for possession of crack versus powder cocaine. (Clarisol Duque, Chicago Director for the Office of Senator Durbin, will accept the award on the Senator’s behalf.)
  • U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis, for sponsoring the Second Chance Act, originally signed into law in 2008, which provides federal seed grants for programs that assist individuals released from prison to successfully reenter society.
  • IL State Senator Mattie Hunter, for leading the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, which addresses racial disparities in the justice system’s response to drug crimes.
  • IL State Senator Kwame Raoul, for sponsoring the Illinois Crime Reduction Act, which invests in community-based solutions to non-violent, drug-related crime.

Recognizing that corrections reform is at the top of state and federal policy agendas, IACJ will honor legislators whose leadership has been instrumental in improving policy. The awards will be presented by Diane Williams, chair of the IACJ board and president of the Safer Foundation, and Pamela Rodriguez, vice-chair of the IACJ board and president of TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities). The Safer Foundation and TASC are among the founding members of IACJ.

To confirm your attendance, please send an email with your name, title, and organization/affiliation to: