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Budget Debacle: Funding for Vulnerable Illinois Kids in Limbo

PHOTO: As the Illinois budget impasse continues, the ACLU is asking a U.S. District Court in Chicago to enforce a consent decree guaranteeing an adequate level of services for abused children. Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus/Flickr.
PHOTO: As the Illinois budget impasse continues, the ACLU is asking a U.S. District Court in Chicago to enforce a consent decree guaranteeing an adequate level of services for abused children. Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus/Flickr.
July 7, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois budget debacle is not only putting state workers' pay in limbo, it is also threatening funding that helps some of the state's most vulnerable children.

The ACLU of Illinois is asking a U.S. District Court to enforce a consent decree to ensure continued payment of state workers responsible for protecting children in the care of the Department of Child and Family Services.

According to Benjamin Wolf, associate legal director with the ACLU of Illinois, State Comptroller Leslie Munger has indicated she isn't authorized to pay workers without a state budget.

"Kids have rights," he says. "Kids have constitutional rights and whatever the chaos in the state legislature and in the governor's office and the issues of their relationship, it can't be used as an excuse to violate the constitutional rights of the children."

In a statement released by her office, Munger said she's confused by the motion and will be in court Tuesday to request an order to allow state employees to receive pay as scheduled. Illinois has been operating without a budget since July 1. House lawmakers return to Springfield on Wednesday, and the Senate resumes its session July 14.

In 2009, the ACLU won a similar court order during a budget impasse, and Wolfe says it was believed that order was sufficient to ensure continued funding. He adds the state must meet its obligation to protect these children.

"Many of them are in foster homes, where the foster parents depend on funding from the state to provide the food and shelter they need," he says. "Children that are alleged to be abused and neglected also need prompt investigations to see if they're unsafe."

A U.S. District Court judge in Chicago is expected to hear the motion today.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL