DCFS hires on-the-spot at hiring events

DCFS hires on-the-spot at hiring events

By BETH HUNDSDORFER
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

Cyrenthia Threat spent Wednesday morning at a hiring event in Fairview Heights waiting for word on whether she was hired by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Threat wants to move to Illinois from Georgia where she works as a social worker. She has 20 years of experience working in adult mental health.

“I just need a change,” Threat said. “I need a job. I just need an opportunity.”

Candidates who attended the hiring event could receive a job offer that day – avoiding weeks and months of delay usually associated with seeking state employment.

DCFS hosted this event to boost numbers around the state as part of Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed headcount increase at the agency. Under the plan, the agency would grow from 3,450 employees to 4,000. The headcount in 2017 was 2,481.

“One of the biggest hurdles to successfully onboarding with the state was how long it took for them from when they first came in contact with the state and applied for a job to when they accepted an offer,” said DCFS Chief of Staff Jassen Strokosch. “And, as we know, folks do not like to wait around for a job. They are going to get other offers.”

To eliminate that obstacle, DCFS consolidated its 12-step hiring process, which includes interviews, grading, fingerprinting, and put it all in one place. The process is just as rigorous as a standard process, an agency spokesperson said, but merging the hiring processes allows for an expediated decision – contingent upon the outcome of background checks.

In recent years, DCFS has come under scrutiny after a series of deaths of children who died after contact the agency. Former Director Marc Smith received a dozen contempt citations from a Cook County judge who cited him personally for failing to ensure children were placed in appropriate settings. While those were eventually dismissed or overturned on appeal, Smith resigned from the position in October.

But for more than 30 years, DCFS has been under the supervision of a federal court. Part of the consent decree to settle a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of kids in care includes reducing worker caseloads, a goal the agency has struggled to meet.

DCFS saw a five-year turnover rate of more than 20 percent statewide, according to an April filing connected to the decades-old consent decree. The new hiring system also attempts to address retention, Strokosch said. To keep the employees they are hiring, Strokosch said there were longtime employees in attendance at the hiring event to talk to prospective hires and let them know the rigors and rewards of the job. He also pointed out DCFS has one of the highest supervisor-to-caseworker ratios in the country, allowing newer employees to feel supported and guided.

“Most of the people that are coming to this event, are not straight out of school. These are folks with experience under their belt. For whatever reason, they want to change their career path. They are coming here because they want to be part of a mission-driven organization. And they want to know that they are making a difference. And we take that incredibly seriously, part of our job is to make sure that, if you are here, it’s because you care about kids,” Strokosch said.

In Fairview Heights, DCFS was looking to hire mostly permanency workers, who monitor and facilitate compliance with safety plans. Germaine Yancy, of East St. Louis, came out to see what DCFS could offer him. Yancy is currently unemployed but has worked with children and has a background in security.

“I saw an opportunity presented itself with the state of Illinois. They were seeking child welfare workers, so I just said I would come on out, see what it was all about,” Yancy said.

Candidates who may not qualify as a children protection investigator or a permanency worker may get a call later about a clerical or other position with the agency.

“We have a whole table of career counselors here that take folks who may not have the qualifications for the job they thought they were coming here to get. And we try to match them up with another job in the agency that they might be qualified for and, and potentially recruit them down the road in the next few weeks. So, it is a win,” Strokosch said.

On-the-spot hiring events were previously held in Rockford and Bloomington. Additional hiring events are planned around the state.

At the hiring event in Fairview Heights, 123 people were offered conditional employment.

Threat, the Georgia social worker who hopes to relocate, was still in line at the event on Wednesday afternoon. No word on whether she was offered a job.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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