A 14-year-old girl in the care of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services was placed in ankle shackles for a five-hour drive to a treatment facility to Missouri, a DCFS spokesman confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
As a result, DCFS will terminate its contract with the transportation service, has suspended the employees involved in the decision to use the ankle shackles – a violation of the department's recent ban on the use of hard restraints – and asked the state's Office of the Inspector General to investigate.
“On Feb. 10, a youth in our care was transported to an out-of-state facility. During the trip, the youth was unacceptably restrained with hard ankle restraints by a transportation contractor," DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch said in an email to Shaw Media Illinois. "The use of hard restraints on any child is completely unacceptable and violates the Department’s ban on ever using hard restraints. No one in our care should ever be mistreated like this."
Jim Stewart Transportation, based in Steele, Missouri, was responsible for the transport of the girl. The DCFS policy banning hard restraints was created with the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a federal consent decree. It also required a judge's or psychiatrist's order to use soft restraints.
"The Department is conducting a thorough review of what took place and staff involved will be suspended from their role approving these transports. Based on the results of this review, staff will be held fully accountable," Strokosch said. "All relevant staff will also receive an immediate retraining to ensure protocols are followed moving forward. DCFS is deeply committed to ensuring every child in our care is treated with the utmost dignity and respect and that this never happens again."
Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert released a statement condemning the incident.
"It’s disheartening that the ink is barely dry on DCFS’s newly promulgated policy and a federal court agreement precluding shackling of children before DCFS is at it again, shackling yet another child," Golbert's statement said. "It’s also discouraging that DCFS is so dysfunctional and unconcerned about social work norms and the civil rights of children that it even needs such a policy and federal court agreement in the first place.
"These children are entrusted to DCFS care because they were born to abusive or neglectful parents, not because they are criminals. Once again, DCFS behaved in a manner antithetical to that trust. Once again, DCFS did so in flagrant violation of court orders, the civil rights of children, social work norms, and its own policies."
Golbert also called on Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to make reforming DCFS "a top priority."
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