By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that he has nominated Marc D. Smith to become the next director of the Department of Children and Family Services, the state’s principal child welfare agency.
Smith is currently in charge of foster care and intact services at Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness, a nonprofit agency that contracts with the state to provide certain child welfare services. A resident of Joliet, he holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Illinois State University and a master’s in social work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
If confirmed by the Illinois Senate, he would succeed Debra Dwyer-Webster, who has been serving as interim director at DCFS since January.
At the same time Pritzker announced Smith’s nomination, he also announced that he is ordering an independent, outside review of the agency’s Intact Family Services unit, which provides services to families where children are in danger of being abused or neglected in order to keep families together and to prevent children from being taken into the child welfare system.
Those services, which have largely been outsourced to private agencies, have come under intense scrutiny in recent months due to the deaths of children in the homes of families that had been receiving services from those outside agencies.
Pritzker said the review will be performed by Chapin Hall, a policy research institute at the University of Chicago.
“The most vulnerable people in Illinois are the children served by DCFS, and we must provide them the best services that our state can offer, which means assessing and implementing the recommendations of child welfare experts,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Within six weeks, Chapin Hall will deliver a report to the new DCFS director with strategic recommendations for improving children’s safety and the quality of the services the agency is providing.”