A child welfare agency in Illinois has come under fire after two teens in its care were transported in handcuffs and shackles.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services vowed in a federal court filing that it would ban the practice after the shocking incident on October 1, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The recent cases involved a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old being moved to a new living arrangement from a shelter on the city’s South Side.
The teenage boys were handcuffed and shackled at the ankles for about an hour as they were driven in separate trips to a shelter run by Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness in Palatine, in the northwest suburbs.
The teenage boys were handcuffed and shackled at the ankles for about an hour as they were driven in separate trips to a shelter (above) run by Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness
The driver worked for a DCFS contractor, Jim Stewart Transportation.
Ricardo Meza, an attorney for Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness, said staff at the shelter were ‘shocked and surprised’ to see the driver arrive with shackles.
Meza and the organization’s chief executive officer sent a letter on Saturday to a court-appointed supervisor, explaining that Aunt Martha’s objected to the restraints.
‘At no (point) have we ever mentioned transporting youth in shackles or handcuffs … ‘ Meza wrote. ‘We exist to protect youth, not to further traumatize them.’
However, Alan Ifft, the director of operations for Jim Stewart Transportation, told the Tribune that Aunt Martha’s staff instructed his drivers to use the restraints, contradicting the letter from the organization’s attorney.
The State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services office in Chicago is seen. The agency vowed in a federal court filing that it would ban the practice of shackling kids
Ifft said that his biggest concern was children running away, and said there had been instances of children bolting out into traffic during transport.
‘I don’t want to be responsible for a child hurting themselves or someone else,’ Ifft said.
In a court filing on Wednesday, DCFS that ‘neither DCFS nor its contractors shall ever use handcuffs and/or shackles for transporting any youth in DCFS care.’
The rule applies both to DCFS staff and contractors, and was implemented effective immediately, the agency said.