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Illinois' child welfare agency cancels layoffs

Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 1:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 2:23 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services canceled plans to lay off 375 employees after state lawmakers signaled they were willing to restore some of the millions of dollars in department funding that had been cut from next year's budget.

The agency's director, Richard Calica, announced the change in a memo to staff Thursday, The State Journal-Register in Springfield reported. The department is still aiming to reduce its headcount by 188 people under a reorganization plan, but will try to avoid making any of the layoffs, which were to have taken effect Oct. 1.

"At Governor (Pat) Quinn's direction, I am announcing today that we are revoking the layoff plan and will proceed with a material reorganization to properly staff our front line positions and provide you with the supports you need in the field," Calica wrote in the memo.

Faced with severe budget strains, Illinois lawmakers approved a $50 million cut in the agency's funding for the new fiscal year. That led to the plans for layoffs at DCFS this month.

Now, the agency says it will work with state lawmakers to restore about $45 million in funding to the department.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said DCFS employees were pleased the agency has changed course.

"AFSCME members and DCFS employees are extremely relieved that the Quinn administration has responded to the very real and serious concerns workers raised about the harm these cuts would cause to kids," Lindall said.

Calica said in his memo that lawmakers "from both chambers and both parties" expressed support for the plan.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat who heads the House committee in charge of drawing up the agency's budget, stopped short of saying there was an agreement.

"We're more than willing to work with the department to restore what we can," Feigenholtz said. "Whether the legislature is able to find the money has yet to be determined."

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