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 15,000 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.
DCFS remains the largest child welfare agency to earn accreditation from the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services. From helping more than 17,000 Illinois children find permanent, loving homes though adoption and reunifying over 21,000 children with their birth families over the last decade to the licensing of nearly 1,200 day care facilities and provision of services to 60,000 families annually, the department and its 2,600 staff are dedicated to providing unrivaled professional service to ensure safe, loving homes and brighter futures for every child in Illinois.