State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, recently introduced a new bill she hopes will help protect children who are wards of the state.
HB 4135 would require the Department of Children and Family Services to verify every two years that agency employees who transport children in a motor vehicle have a valid driver's license. It would also require those checks on private agency employees who transport DCFS children.
Jakobsson said HB 4135 was prompted by a Chicago Tribune article from August, which indicated that DCFS had a policy requiring all child welfare caseworkers to have a valid driver's license and insurance, but no system of verifying whether that is indeed the case.
"The people who we trust to take care of our children should be responsible enough to do what it takes to hold a valid driver's license," Jakobsson said in a written release. "It should raise a caution flag when someone who has a position driving wards of the state is allowed a driver's license to expire or has driving privileges revoked."
According to DCFS spokeswoman Diane Jackson, all DCFS caseworkers and investigators have their driver's license checked at the time of hire. Their licenses are rechecked once a year, as long as they remain in a caseworker or investigator status, she said.
"DCFS has a policy to discipline staff for not maintaining or having a valid driver's license. The process may not be entirely foolproof, but annual checks are conducted," Jackson said in an e-mail to The News-Gazette.
The driver's license checks are done only for DCFS staff, and the department does not check any background records for private agency staff in any capacity, she added. Jackson said she could not comment specifically on Jakobsson's bill because it was pending legislation.
The General Assembly returns to Springfield on Jan. 11, 2006.