The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has said that the physical restraining of two teenagers as they were driven from a shelter in Chicago to one in the northwest suburbs was “totally unacceptable.”
The two teens, 15 and 17, were handcuffed and shackled at their ankles Oct. 1 as they were separately driven to a shelter in Palatine, about 30 miles away, DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch confirmed.
“DCFS is committed to ensuring every child in our care is treated with the utmost dignity and respect. The use of restraints in this case was totally unacceptable and against department policy,” Strokosch said in a statement. “DCFS is investigating the incident and putting additional policies and procedures in place immediately to ensure youth are never restrained during transport unless it is clinically necessary.”
The youths were restrained and driven by the Jim Stewart Transportation company, whom DCFS contracts for “secure transport” when a case manager feels they cannot shuttle the young people themselves, Strokosch said.
However, the call for secured transport does not necessarily merit the use of restraints, Strokosch said. A DCFS case manager may request secured transport for clinical or safety reasons, and it is usually reserved for when a minor is taken from one locked facility to another.
DCFS has contracted Jim Stewart Transportation for secured transport about 120 times since 2017, Strokosch said. The company and DCFS inked a new two-year deal in July worth about $240,000, he said.
Strokosch declined to comment on the specifics of the Oct. 1 incident, citing department policy regarding privacy.
The Cook County Public Guardian’s office represented the older teenager in a hearing in the Child Protection Division of Cook County Circuit Court last week, Strokosch said, though he declined to provide details.
Representatives for Jim Stewart Transportation and the Cook County Public Guardian could not be reached for comment Saturday.