The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC) has launched a new Courts, Children and Families Division. The Division, which succeeds the Courts, Children and Families Unit (CCFU), became effective on May 1, 2020. Former CCFU Court Services Manager Heather Dorsey will serve as its Assistant Director.
The Division will allow the AOIC to expand its focus from child protection to other issues facing Illinois’ youth and families, according to the press release. This includes dually involved youth (youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems), domestic violence, and human trafficking. The Division will continue to administer the Court Improvement Program (CIP), which is working to improve court response to child protection cases, and collaborate with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
“I’d like to thank the Supreme Court and Director Meis for their vision in the creation of the Courts, Children and Families Division,” Dorsey said in the press release. “We look forward to assisting the needs of the courts by providing resources, best practices and developing projects and training on issues impacting children and families.”
Illinois’ Children and Families Face COVID-Related Challenges
The creation of the Courts, Children and Families Division comes as Illinois’ youth and families face new challenges related to COVID-19.
Child abuse and neglect may be on the rise, as families are under increased financial and emotional stress, according to the volunteer organization Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Tenth Judicial Circuit. Kane County, Illinois, reported a 139% increase in the number of juvenile abuse and neglect cases in March and April of 2020 compared to the same time last year.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has formed partnerships with Airbnb and ride-hailing providers to support victims fleeing domestic violence. Chicago has seen an uptick in domestic violence claims in 2020 compared to the same time last year.
On May 8, the Office of the Chief Judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County announced that six residents and 10 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC). The six residents were not part of the general population, which has seen no positive COVID-19 tests as of May 14.
Judges released 190 JTDC residents from March 16 through April 25. As of April 27, there were 170 residents, a decline from 210 on March 15.
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