(The Center Square) – The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was verbally criticized Tuesday by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules Tuesday for the way the agency proposed rules regulating daycare operations.
Over the summer, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules suspended a DCFS rule limiting the length of time caregivers can monitor the rooms of children under 2 years old. The rule prohibited assistants from monitoring rooms for up to 90 minutes during opening and closing. This was changed by three hours during the opening and closing of the authorized agency during the pandemic.
The bipartisan JCAR requested more information after learning that hundreds of substantiated complaints had been filed against daycares over the issue.
DCFS Deputy Licensing Director Shontée Blankenship told JCAR in July that the department had received more than 300 complaints about the issue since 2019. More than 290 were substantiated, she said.
“These numbers clearly show that leaving an aide alone without a qualified teacher is a safety issue that cannot be ignored,” Blankenship said.
A public records request filed by The Center Square revealed a total of 305 complaints filed between January 1, 2019 and July 11, 2023, and there were only 52 substantiated complaints.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said the committee was misled.
“These are two completely different images and information that have been provided to this committee to justify why you are trying to enforce this rule,” Rezin said Tuesday.
State Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, said DCFS is a “national embarrassment.”
“We are not coming to you. I will never come to you for anything. You’ll need me before I need you. You will need this committee before we need you and that is a bipartisan disregard for your department,” Tarver said.
State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, asked agency officials how they are not hampered by ongoing problems around the daycare rule.
“I’m not saying the work you do isn’t difficult, but how do you continue to lie to this committee, lie to providers, because you’re not the one who has to find child care,” said Castro said.
Castro suggested she might have to legislate child care licensing away from DCFS altogether.
“Because honestly, you need to focus on the one thing you’re doing horribly right now, which is taking care of the children in our care,” Castro said. “Maybe this should be your priority and your mission should be rethought.”
Castro went further to say that the way DCFS conducted this part of the rulemaking is “shameful” and that she will not forget it.
After being reprimanded by the committee, the JCAR approved a motion opposing the rules.