The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was established on January 1, 1964 as the nation’s first cabinet-level state child welfare agency. Until that time, the state’s child welfare responsibilities were housed in the Department of Mental Health; and limited services and placement programs for children were provided by several state agencies, private agencies and county courts. Approximately 4,000 children were served during the department’s first year of operation, compared to a peak of 51,000 children in foster care in 1997 and 20,000 today.
The department’s history is steeped in a long tradition of service and innovation for the state’s most vulnerable children. Illinois is home to the nation’s first juvenile court, counts itself as the birthplace of social work (Jane Addams’ Hull House), was among the first states to establish child protection laws, was an early signatory to laws mandating the reporting of child abuse and neglect and created one of the nation’s first statewide child abuse hotlines.
The mission of Illinois DCFS is to protect children who are reported to be abused or neglected and to increase their families' capacity to safely care for them; provide for the well-being of children in our care; provide appropriate, permanent families as quickly as possible for those children who cannot safely return home; support early intervention and child abuse prevention activities and work in partnerships with communities to fulfill this mission. Illinois DCFS is the largest child welfare agency to earn accreditation from the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services. From helping more than 15,000 Illinois children find permanent, loving homes though adoption and reunifying over 22,000 children with their birth families over the last decade; to the licensing of nearly 11,000 day care facilities; answering of more than 220,000 calls to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline and provision of services to 60,000 families annually; the department and its more than 3,000 employees are dedicated to providing unrivaled professional service to ensure safe, loving homes and brighter futures for every child in Illinois.