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UIS ends contract with DCFS for training investigators


The University of Illinois Springfield has elected to discontinue its contract with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services to offersimulation training for DCFS investigators in a house on campus.

The university decided against renewal of the agreement because the state had not followed its best-practice recommendation that simulation be included throughout a five-week course rather than four and a half days, said Dr. Betsy Goulet, who founded and directs the simulations at UIS and is former DCFS investigator.

”We really think that we could do a much better job if we had them over the course of their foundation training, and we could intersperse the classroom content with the experiences in the SIM lab with different environments and different scenarios,” she said,

Lacking simulation training is detrimental to investigators, Goulet said.

“It is critically important that they feel confident about child protection, about the protocols, about the procedures, and about engaging with families in crisis,” she said.

She said by doing the simulation, “They have a whole different idea of what it's like to come into somebody's home and ask difficult questions. I mean, they have to ask parents to take a baby's clothing off. So they can, you know, see where there might be... you know, marks or bruises."

“That's hard to do. As a perfect stranger, you'd you come in and say, well, I need you to take a baby's clothes off. You know, imagine the stress that comes with doing that. But it's part of your procedure," she said. "And so we train them to have those really challenging hard conversations, but we don't give them enough time to practice. And that's the frustration.”

UIS has trained more than 1,000 investigators since the program began in 2016, and contracts with other clients to use the simulation lab. DCFS paid UIS almost $700,000 last fiscal year for simulations.

A spokesman for the Department of Children and Family Services said the agency “is deeply committed to simulation training and continues to expand simulation training across the state with new university partners.”

Those facilities are at Northern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University. The department also provides safety training for investigators with other entities.

The issue of safety came to the surface when Deidre Silas, a DCFS investigator from Springfield, was stabbed to death while on a visit in January. She was the second DCFS caseworker to die after being attacked on the job in recent years.

DCFS has expanded its investment in simulation training from over $300,000 in fiscal year 2018 to more than two million in the current fiscal year, the spokesman said.

Copyright 2022 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.