Senate Week in Review: Oct. 2-6, 2023

SPRINGFIELD – The Director of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) – the state agency charged with protecting vulnerable Illinois children – has announced that he will soon be stepping down.

With Veterans Day coming soon, Illinoisans are being encouraged to honor veterans by submitting their names and pictures to be displayed at a Capitol memorial.

In other news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing new grants for rural water and waste systems, along with offering an update on the state’s harvest.

And October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

DCFS Director stepping down

Following the recent release of another scathing audit covering repeated issues with the DCFS, the director of the embattled agency, Marc D. Smith, announced that he would be leaving his position at the end of the year.

DCFS is charged with caring for vulnerable Illinois children, including victims of abuse and children who are in the care of the state for various reasons.

The recent compliance audit of DCFS contained 33 findings of the agency not complying with state laws and rules, including multiple failures by the agency to properly notify authorities about evidence of abuse against children in a timely fashion. The audit also called “misstatements” that were “both material and pervasive.” The audit contained 23 findings of noncompliance from the agency’s previous audit.

Additionally in recent years, DCFS and Director Smith have been found to be in contempt of court in multiple cases for failing to properly place children into safe homes. Some cases involved children who were left in psychiatric facilities months after they were ready to be released. Another involved a teenage girl who was moved 24 times in just four months.

According to news reports, Director Smith first announced that he was leaving during a conference call with staff. The information was later confirmed by the Governor, along with departures of the directors of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and the Department on Aging.

State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) says that the Governor needs to act swiftly to find a competent new director for DCFS but warns that the issues at the agency run much deeper than just one person. She says it is unacceptable that the Administration has allowed DCFS to continue to fail to protect the vulnerable children of our state for so long.

Veterans Memorial returns to Capitol

Members of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus are once again working to honor the sacrifices of veterans with a memorial at the Illinois State Capitol.

The caucus’ memorial will be on display in the Capitol rotunda from Nov. 7 to Nov. 20. It will feature a large electronic display of veterans and their stories, along with a wall where visitors can write notes of thanks to those who served.

Tracy is encouraging Illinoisans to submit a photo and short story (fewer than 250 words) of their veteran by Nov. 6, so that it can be a part of the memorial display. Entries can be submitted to

USDA grants to enhance rural water and waste systems

The USDA Rural Development has unveiled an opportunity for private nonprofit organizations to apply for grants aimed at enhancing water treatment and waste disposal systems in rural areas. This initiative, part of the Water and Waste Disposal Technical Assistance and Training Grants program, strives to improve essential facilities for households and businesses in rural communities.

Funds may be used for:

  • Identifying and evaluating solutions to water problems related to source, storage, treatment, distribution, collection, and disposal;
  • Providing technical assistance and training to improve management, operations and maintenance of water and waste disposal systems; or
  • Preparing water and waste disposal loan and grant applications.

Eligible areas for these grants encompass cities, towns, unincorporated rural regions with populations up to 10,000 residents, and tribal lands. Priority consideration will be given to projects serving areas with populations of fewer than 5,500 or 2,500 residents. Projects are expected to be completed within 12 months.

Applications will be accepted from now until Dec. 31, 2023, on For more information on the USDA Rural Development’s priority points and updates, please visit

Illinois farmers making progress

Farmers in the Land of Lincoln are starting to make significant progress with harvesting the state’s corn and soybean crops.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 23 percent of Illinois corn acres have been harvested, along with 19 percent of soybean acres. Those totals are just about double the number of acres that were harvested at the same point in 2022.

The condition of the crops has improved significantly as well. While much of the state was suffering from moderate to severe drought as recently as June, late season rains helped the fields to rebound. According to the NASS data, 66 percent of Illinois corn and soybean acres are rated as good or excellent.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, promoting awareness of the disease, along with the stories of survivors and those who lost their lives. Numerous breast cancer organizations also hold fundraisers to help generate money for research on treatments to help patients.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. An estimated 43,700 American women will die in 2023 from the disease. When caught early however, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent. There are currently 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the country.

For more information, visit Breast Cancer ( .

Jil Tracy

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: