Embattled Illinois welfare agency praised for training lab

CHICAGO (AP) — Experts say an Illinois welfare agency under fire for high-profile deaths of children has become a national standout when it comes to giving workers hands-on training.

The state has two simulation labs where over 700 employees have trained and there are plans for a third. Trainees walk through mock homes and role-play scenarios with actors in an attempt to prepare for their jobs of investigating claims of abuse and neglect across the state.

The accolades come as some of the Department of Children and Family Services’ investigators face scrutiny for recent child deaths, including a 5-year-old suburban Chicago boy this year. And some critics say the agency should do more to manage its systemic deficiencies.

But many trainees say the experiential training is valuable and will help address the problems.