House and Senate GOP members call for DCFS caseworker protections (with video)

State Rep. Tony McCombie (Savanna) stood with the husband and daughter of slain DCFS caseworker Pam Knight, and with Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate on May 23 to demand a Senate vote on legislation that would provide important protections to DCFS workers.

“Today, we are calling for the Senate to give a hearing and a vote on House Bill 1482, and I am asking Gov. JB Pritzker to support this common-sense legislation,” said McCombie, the Chief House sponsor of the bill. “Now is the time to close the loophole that currently excludes DCFS and Adult Protective Service Workers from life-saving protections.”

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Pictured above at the press conference May 23 in the Capitol are (from left to right): State Sen. Brian Stewart (Freeport), State Rep. Andrew Chesney (Freeport), State Rep. Tony McCombie (Savanna), Don Knight (at podium), the Knights’ daughter Jennifer Hollenback, State Rep. Tom Demmer (Dixon) and State Sen. Neil Anderson (Andalusia).

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Filed in response to the brutal beating and subsequent death of DCFS worker Pam Knight, House Bill 1482 would provide DCFS and Adult Protective Service employees with the same protections against assault as are given to teachers, police/fire, and other emergency responders who protect those in harm’s way.

Approved by a 112-0 vote of the House on April 3, House Bill 1482 is currently stalled in the Senate Assignments Committee with nine bipartisan co-sponsors.

“As we all know, DCFS is struggling. Caseworkers are overburdened and the outcomes for our children have too often been tragic. While we are aware of the recent issues faced by DCFS, I want to make sure we don’t forget about the past,” McCombie said. “Less than two years ago, we mourned another horrible loss for DCFS when caseworker Pam Knight was brutally attacked by the father of a two-year-old boy she was advocating for in Chadwick, Illinois. DCFS caseworkers are the ones who are going into these homes, putting their lives at risk, in order to save children from dangerous situations. Many times, their protective efforts are obstructed by the child’s parents.”   

After his wife passed away, Don Knight has made it his mission to advocate for the safety of DCFS caseworkers. He and the Knights’ daughter Jennifer Hollenback attended the May 23 press conference in the Capitol.

“Send a message to child welfare workers – their lives matter,” Don Knight said. “Their safety matters. While I will never get my wife back, it has become my mission to improve DCFS processes and protect DCFS workers so this never happens again.” 

House Bill 1482 is sponsored by State Sen. Brian Stewart (Freeport) in the Senate.

“DCFS investigators serve as protectors of our most vulnerable citizens, children living in troubled domestic environments. The job of DCFS investigators is difficult, thankless and dangerous. Some did not fully understand how dangerous until September 29, 2017, when DCFS investigator Pam Knight of Sterling was assaulted while taking a two-year-old child into protective custody,” Stewart said. “Tragically, Mrs. Knight passed away from her injuries on February 8, 2018, more than four months after being assaulted. Right now, police officers, firefighters and other peace officers are protected by the law. DCFS investigators should have the same protections. I am proud to sponsor this bill, and others like it in recent years.”

State Sen. Neil Anderson (Andalusia) is also sponsoring House Bill 1482 in the Senate.

“What happened to Pam Knight should never happen to anyone, especially not someone who has dedicated their career to protecting the children of this state,” Anderson said. “This legislation ensures that those who commit violence against social workers face the same penalties they would if they attacked a police officer or a teacher. Social workers, like Pam, are the true definition of public servants, and they deserve justice for these heinous acts.”

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A video of the May 23 press conference in the Capitol is available below.