The state's child welfare agency plans to have 100 more investigators and caseworkers in the mix by October in a continued effort to reduce its caseload, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The Department of Children and Family Services announcement comes as part of a federal court agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
"It has become clear to us and to the Department of Children and Family Services that a crisis had developed in terms of the number of front line investigators investigating new child abuse or neglect considerations or charges," said Ed Yohnka, the Director of Communications and Public Policy at the ACLU of Illinois.
The agreement reached 21 years ago mandated that investigators were only allowed to take on 12 new cases a month. Three months out of the year, the may take on 15 new cases.
But the number of caseloads had risen to 20 per month per investigator in some instances, Yohnka said.
DCFS spokeswoman Kendall Marlow said this week's agreement means each investigator will get only nine new cases each month. Some of the new positions will be filled by recent retirees and those who had left the department, he said.
The ACLU called the agreement "an important step" in reversing problems at the agency, which has been hit with deep budget cuts. Most calls to the agency go to an answering machine instead of a person, and it has not kept up with inspections of daycare centers.
"If the caseloads become too great, the children don't get the care that they need," Yohnka said.
DCFS has already made progress toward to goal of reducing caseloads by hiring temporary employees, primarily retired investigators. That will continue under the new agreement.
Near the end of February, the department had around 2,400 cases that were considered overdue -- those that have not been resolved in 60 days -- Marlowe said. The number as of this week was a little more than 300, he said.