DCFS will tell you it’s doing a good job. My experience indicates otherwise.
When a government agency does more harm than good, shut it down. That’s no more crazy or inane than saying let’s keep throwing money at a problem through a dysfunctional agency and saying because of their good intentions, throwing the money is justified—the problem should end because DCFS is earnest.
We don’t reward that kind of drivel.
We don’t devote resources, especially taxpayer resources, to systems that don’t work. Just because they are well-intentioned does not mean we keep funding failing programs. In law school I studied hard. Read every case. Studied until long past dark and worked like a dog. With rare exception, I didn’t do well on the final exams. I was crushed. I sacrificed everything to study! I deserved to know that material! But that’s not what the exams measured or rewarded. It didn’t matter how hard I studied. If I didn’t ace the exam, I didn’t get (or deserve) credit for effort. Excellence, not effort.
DCFS had a 2010 budget of over $157,000,000 in 2010. Let’s assume that DCFS provided services for 30,000 children and/or their parents in 2010 (I don’t have reliable numbers as I write this, so I use 30,000 as what I assert to be a liberal number because my guess is that the actual numbers is less than 30,000). That would be $5,233 spent for each of the 30,000 people involved, whether they actually received any services from DCFS or not. If we break it down by children only, and assume 10,000 children (again, just an assumed number), that’s $15,700 per child. Those are crazy numbers (and likely higher than I estimated), particularly given that many children who are considered abused or neglected by current DCFS policies suffer from no confirmed physical or psychological afflictions .
The point is that just because you intend to “protect” children, if your practices are not working, if it’s not protecting children (the volume of children it’s meant to protect), then you institute alternatives or just abandon the project and say it is better to devote these resources to things that do produce a tangible benefit rather than continuing to throw money at something that doesn’t.
Now for the critics that will say, “You don’t just give up on a problem when you can’t solve it,” that’s not what I’m about. I believe any problem can be solved. But I also believe some problems solve themselves. Don’t just do something, stand there, is one of the wisest bits of advice I have ever received. Before we embark on (or continue to fund) statewide government programs with multi-million dollar budgets and far-reaching powers, we must ensure a government program should exist in the first place, and if so, ensure that the program actually works.
Start by experimenting. Work on a small-scale that justifies its small, manageable budget and its expenditure to develop ideas that appear to “work in the lab” and then eventually see if it can be scaled to larger situations and needs. Like KIPP (Knowldege is Power Program – kipp.org). KIPP didn’t start out by saying were going to have every child in the state use our new idea for teaching inner-city youth. They started out with two schools in New York and then branched onto another and another (until they now include 109 schools in 20 states, teaching more than 32,000 students; KIPP schools enroll all interested students, space permitting, regardless of prior academic record, conduct or socioeconomic background) because they realized, we’ve got some good intentions here backed by solid principles, coupled with some practices that are getting desired results. After developing a system that finally works on a small scale, we ramped it up and found out it works on a larger scale and that we can release a nationwide. Nationally, more than 95 percent of KIPP middle school students have graduated high school, and more than 85 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.
When it comes to child welfare programs, we should try novel things. What kinds of things? We should try things that might appear crazy as long as we are not doing it is a wasteful way or in a way that requires risky or reckless or careless experimentation. Why? Because what we have now clearly does not function as intended or desired.
Start first by doing nothing and see if there’s a change for the worse or the better. Really.
 Note: not all of the DCFS budget is devoted to child abuse and neglect. Some of the budget is spent on adoption, for example.