Illinois DCFS Cancels Hundreds Of Layoffs - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Illinois DCFS Cancels Hundreds Of Layoffs

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A major change of direction for hundreds of Illinois employees.

The State's Department of Children and Family Services has canceled planned layoffs scheduled to take effect this month.

The agency says it will instead work with lawmakers to restore some of its budget.

And find ways to reduce staffing while avoiding layoffs.

The plan was to eliminate 375 workers from the ranks of the Department of Children and Family Services.

21 of those would come from the Rock Island field office.

Since the original layoff announcement, five of those workers retired.

Leaving 16 people worrying about their future.

A future that looks a little brighter after today's announcement.

"Everybody's really excited that the layoffs have been postponed, and revoked at the direction of the Governor," says AFSCME Union steward Patrick Perion.

He says Friday's announcement ends one of the most stressful times of his career. And says it means children in need will come out ahead.

"We're talking about abused and neglected children and their families that we're trying to service, making sure their kids don't go to foster care."

Efforts that take time to develop the trust between a caseworker and a client.

"Most of our clients have bonded with their workers and we have even now, clients from years ago who call us."

The General Assembly will need to replace the millions of dollars the layoffs would have represented. But Perion says his colleagues are staying positive.

"We do have to get the Legislature to put the funding back into these positions, there is a tentative plan in place, some people might need to be shifted around to some different job titles, and that sort of thing, so we're cautiously optimistic."

Perion says he lobbied the Governor when he was in town. And more pressure came from state hearings. But he believes what was already happening to kids changed the Governor's mind.

"We had to close cases with kids that could have benefited from continued counseling, or continued treatment and therapy, those cases had to be closed with those changes and now hopefully we'll be able to reopen some of those."

It's not clear yet where the 45 million dollars will come from in the state budget.

State Senator Mike Jacobs and State Representative Rich Morthland both say it's good these DCFS positions have been restored.

But they have different views about the way the process has unfolded.

"What we'll need to do is move some money from some different lines, but the important thing, is that to lose these kinds of positions, in this economy, and put all these kids at risk was really a bad idea, says Senator Mike Jacobs.

"This is the second Governor in a row that likes to play these games, where they do something so draconian, something so awful, that the people will stand up against it," says Representative Rich Morthland.

DCFS will still need to cut 45 million dollars from its budget.

It plans to do that by transferring middle management type positions into unfilled front line roles.

Such as caseworkers and investigators.

The AFSCME union is still bargaining out the details.

The General Assembly will have to reverse the DCFS cuts in its fall veto session this November.

There is no guarantee that no lay-offs will occur.

But the union and state are hopeful that this new restructuring plan will save money without limiting the department's effectiveness.