FILE - IL DCFS Marc D. Smith

The director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Marc D. Smith testifies before the House Appropriations-Human Services Committee Friday, April 26, 2019 in Chicago.

(The Center Square) – A new report shows the number of children under the supervision of the state is falling.

The Office of the Inspector General’s recent report found a 17% decrease in child deaths in Illinois from 2019 to 2020.

The state saw 21 fewer cases of child deaths investigated by the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) with 102 deaths in 2020 over 123 in the previous year, according to the OIG’s report

DCFS Chief of Staff Jassen Strokosch said what they’re seeing is solid progress.

“This administration at the department has really worked hard to be collaborative with our partners to bring about systemic change that keeps kids safer, and we believe this report and others reflect that progress,” Strokosch told The Center Square.

DCFS shares credit for the headway with those they partner with including the court system, legislators and the private sector, said Strokosch.

“When we work together collaboratively we see progress like this and fewer children die and residents in Illinois are safer,” he said

Of the 102 deaths in 2020, 30 were caused by accidents, 12 were homicides, five were suicides and 14 were from undetermined causes. 

Strokosch said they won’t be content until the number is zero.

“I think it shows we’re on track to do this work better and keep children safer in this state, but again we’re proud of that progress but it’s not enough, we’re not satisfied,” he said.

One of the largest causes of death in the OIG’s report every year is unsafe sleeping arrangements, he points out.

“Parents co-sleeping with kids, kids in a cluttered crib: these are absolutely preventable deaths,” he said.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest behavior changes to induce in parents, according to Strokosch.

Many feared COVID-19 would cause a spike in child abuse and related deaths, but Strokosch said case numbers have stayed steady; however, it’s too early to make any definitive statements about the impact of the coronavirus, he said.

“Truly, until schools are back in a new normal type of setting, and children are seeing doctors again and dentists, and they’re getting out and returning to sports and other places where they have contact with adults other than their parents — until that new normal comes, it’s going to be very difficult to know exactly what the impact of COVID was,” Strokosch said.