The governor’s proposed Department of Children and Family Services budget for the coming fiscal year keeps in place services for individuals 18 to 21 years old, but with a caveat.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, DCFS Director George Sheldon said the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year keeps in place programs for 18- to 21-year-olds, but only for those who have disabilities or those taking part in work or education programs.

“I think it is very important that we work with those youths to incentivize them to do that which is in their best interest and that is develop a skill or education,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon said they’re in the process of setting up an employment connection program to help incentivize 18- to 21-year-olds.

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Democratic state Sen. Daniel Biss had some concerns.

“It seems like you’re headed in a great direction, but I want to make sure we’ve got all the plans in place before we pull up stakes,” Biss said.

Various service providers also expressed concerns that the move is a significant policy shift. Providers wanted review of the possible impacts before moving forward.

Meanwhile DCFS is moving forward with a pilot program to transition children from institutional care to community-based settings.

The proposed budget for the coming fiscal year for DCFS cuts $23 million for institutional care but increases funds by $19 million for community placement. Sheldon said the process already has started.

“We have selected the provider for Rockford, Aurora, and Cook (counties),” Sheldon said, “and they will be focusing on the younger children.”  

However Marge Berglind with Childcare Association of Illinois said the current budget impasse is negatively affecting community service providers.

“Those community resources are not there for us to be able to take care of kids in the best way we want,” Berglind said.

Other concerns raised about the proposed budget included no raises in stipends for foster-care families, something Berglind said makes providing care for high-risk children difficult.