Dear Editor:

Finally! A comprehensive, good understanding of the DCFS and court systems as they relate to abused and neglected children and families [“The Children’s Crusade,” March 24]. While the Chicago Tribune has sensationalized (and to a lesser degree, the Sun-Times) stories of children abused while involved with DCFS, Richard Wexler has written a fair and thorough portrayal of the family preservation program and the events that led up to the murder of Joseph Wallace.

Back when all the publicity was blasting the DCFS system and the family preservation program, I wrote letters to both newspapers. Other Family First (preservation) supervisors and workers of private agencies did the same. Not one letter was printed. Our intent was to inform the general public that the family preservation program was not just doling out money and things to “bad” families, as public guardian Patrick Murphy would have you believe.

I agree with everything stated in the article and would add that, while some (the key is some) families in the Family First program received financial help (nowhere near the amount publicized in the daily papers), the purpose was to ensure that children were safe from harm and that they would not be removed from their homes for reasons of poverty. In fact, DCFS is liable if children are removed because of insufficient food or shelter. I would like to point out that families were not preserved at the cost of children’s lives. Parents were taken to court when it was deemed the risk to children was too great to leave them in the home.

DCFS has many flaws in its system and is overloaded with cases, but the family preservation program was hardly given a chance. In Illinois, it was replaced by two programs that also have as their goal to maintain families together. One is able to provide more intensive services for a select few families. The other has a much larger caseload and families do not receive financial support. No one mentions the families that have been helped by DCFS and private agencies, but there are many. Many parents are struggling to make a good life for their children. For the sake of the children, these families need services.

Thank you for a well-written article.

Diane Link


PS: I am employed by Association House (a private social service agency). I was supervisor of the Family First program, then Intact Family Services.