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DCFS hosts on-the-spot hiring event in Bloomington to keep up with increase in investigations

job fair
Eric Stock
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services looked to fill at least 50 child welfare and case investigator positions on Monday during an on-the-spot job fair in Bloomington.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is trying a new approach to fill hundreds of jobs.

The child welfare agency hosted an on-the-spot job clinic Monday in Bloomington. It held a similar event in Rockford last week and might schedule additional job fairs in the future, depending on how many positions it can fill.

DCFS chief of staff Jassen Strokosch said the agency needs more case investigators and welfare specialists to help find homes for abused and neglected children, especially after the pandemic when the number of investigations increased.

“While we’ve made great strides in hiring, they just haven’t kept pace with the amount of work coming in through investigations and permanency,” Strokosch said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas. “It takes more people to do that work.”

Strokosch said DCFS also lost a lot of employees during the pandemic.

“Child welfare is an incredibly difficult role to fill all across the country. These are challenging, challenging jobs and they take a toll on folks,” he said.

According to data provided by DCFS, the agency handled nearly 98,300 case investigations in 2022 and has managed nearly 47,400 cases so far this year. That marks a 14% increase over pre-pandemic levels (2019).

Strokosch said reports of child abuse and neglect likely increased after COVID shutdowns because teachers, health care providers and other mandated reporters saw children less frequently and therefore saw less evidence of abuse. He said substance abuse, employment and other factors have likely led to the increase in child abuse cases, too.

Strokosch suggested the agency also likely fielded more abuse and neglect reports than in years past because staff has been more responsive to calls on the DCFS hotline (1-800-25-ABUSE).

“In the past, there’s historically been struggles with the hotline,” said Strokosch, adding that during the Bruce Rauner administration, many who called the hotline had to leave messages or spend a lot of time on hold.

Despite the hiring needs, the agency’s staff levels are currently at a 15-year high with more than 3,100 workers.

Strokosch said the agency offered jobs to nearly 200 applicants at its event in Rockford. A DCFS official said the agency hopes to hire 50 new workers after Monday's event in Bloomington.

DCFS case investigators start at close to $70,000. Pay for child welfare specialists starts at nearly $60,000. Trainees for both positions can begin at $46,000.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.