Local Editorials

Our view: Governor joins Legislature in protecting DCFS

When a bill gets unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly, that’s a good sign it likely will become law.

When the governor adds his signature, he’s ratifying a measure that has extremely strong support.

So it was that a bill to boost protections for Department of Children and Family Services workers, in the wake of a violent attack on a DCFS worker last year that led to her death in February, has become state law.

The bill, Senate Bill 3105, was introduced by state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, a week after the death of a constituent, DCFS child protective investigator Pamela Knight, 59, of Dixon.

Knight, in the course of her duties, was brutally beaten after she arrived at a house Sept. 29 in Milledgeville looking for a 2-year-old who was to be taken into protective custody. The suspect, 25-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Sucher of Rock Falls, is being prosecuted in Carroll County on five counts of first-degree murder and other felony charges.

Bivins’ bill, which is now law, encourages, but does not mandate, police protection for DCFS workers who don’t have co-workers available to accompany them on a call regarding a high-risk report of child abuse or neglect, and who have a reasonable belief that the person named in the report could be violent.

The new law calls on police “to make all reasonable efforts to assist” such DCFS workers when asked, but also states that such assistance to a DCFS child protective investigator be provided “at a mutually available time.”

In other words, if police are busy when the DCFS investigator proposes a home visit, the visit needs to be rescheduled to a different time that’s convenient for both parties.

That makes sense.

What also makes sense is that the bill allows police officers and sheriff’s deputies to cross jurisdictions to assist DCFS child protective investigators.

Senate Bill 3105 made so much sense that 115 House of Representatives members voted yes, and 52 senators voted yes. Not a single legislator voted against it.

And now that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said yes with his signature, the law can be put to work to provide greater protection to DCFS child protective investigators.

There can be no doubt that DCFS workers at times face peril in carrying out their duties.

There also can be no doubt that police departments are expected to work with DCFS workers in a reasonable, responsible fashion to protect them from the fate that sadly befell Pamela Knight.

The House wants it to happen. The Senate wants it to happen. The governor wants it to happen. It’s unanimous.

It should also be unanimous that this small, first step toward greater protection for DCFS workers should not be the last.

Tougher penalties should be placed on the books, and widely publicized, to deter potential offenders from acts of violence against DCFS workers and others who are doing their best to project Illinois’ children.

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