State’s child welfare agency scrambles to protect workers as it braces for spike in child abuse reports

Illinois’ child welfare agency is undertaking a rapid, extensive revamping of how it responds to abuse reports, both to safeguard frontline workers during the coronavirus outbreak and to prepare for a potential surge in hotline calls about children isolated with abusive adults. More than a week ago, on March 22, the Department of Children and Family Services emptied out its crowded hotline call center in Springfield that employed 100 people. Workers were issued laptops and equipped to work from their homes, and no calls were dropped, according to an agency official, outside monitors and Tribune interviews with 12 hotline call-takers and child protective investigators. “We were blown away by how well it worked,” said Lori Oelrich, a midnight shift hotline operator who started handling abuse and neglect reports from her home. “The sound was clear and they could hear me, I could hear them. It was like, OK, this […]

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