Exclusive: Private contractors talk about working with DCFS

We are getting a new look at how the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services functions through the eyes of the private contractors that work with the agency.

DCFS has faced mounting scrutiny since the death of Crystal Lake 5-year-old AJ Fruend, whose family had contact with the state agency.

DCFS investigators, in an exclusive interview this week, blamed private contractors for families slipping through the cracks. Now, those private contractors are responding.

"We're paying these outside vendors to protect our children because DCFS can't do it all...CUT OUT [they have the specialty, they're supposed to be responsible and] ...they are dropping the ball, they are not doing their due diligence,” said State Rep. Mary Flowers.

Flowers accuses private agencies, contracted by DCFS, of failing to follow up with families.

Critics slammed DCFS after records show it had at least several contacts with AJ Freund and his parents before AJ was found dead in a shallow grave.

"I've seen a difference in level of services once it's removed from DCFS staff,” said DCFS Investigator Alishia Glover.

DCFS investigators last week also blasted the agency's contractors.

Andrea Durbin represents the agencies.

"Our caseworkers who have bachelor's degrees in human services and have extensive training average about $13 or $14 dollars an hour, not even the new minimum wage, thatS a problem,” Durbin said.

It's one of the many problems Durbin says is affecting the entire child welfare system.

"We have the same training, the same credentials, the same educational experience all as what DCFS has,” Durbin said.

"Because we subcontract with the Department of Children and Family Services, they monitor all our work,” said Kathy Grzelak, who’s the executive director at Kaleidoscope/Intact Family Service Provider and has been in child welfare over 25 years.

Durbin says the issue with DCFS and private contractors is partially due to state funding.

"The child welfare system as a whole has not received any new funding for the private sector in almost 20 years,” she said.

The opinions expressed by DCFS employees in this interview do not represent those of DCFS.