032922CM0648 rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) advanced a measure out of the Senate that would collect additional information for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in an effort to strengthen support and care for children in the foster system.

“One of the best ways we can improve our foster care system in this state is to listen to the kids about their experiences,” Ellman said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure they’re cared for and their concerns are heard as they move from one home to another.”

House Bill 4304 requires exit interviews to be conducted within five days of removal for every child age five and older who leaves a foster home. This process is modeled after a similar procedure followed by caseworkers in Florida.

Under current regulations, DCFS caseworkers are involved in the child removal process when requested by the foster home. This legislation lays the groundwork for a formal process to work to ensure caseworkers are gathering important information about each child’s experience in a home upon removal.

Information gathered during these interviews will depend on the age and maturity of the child and the circumstances of the removal request. House Bill 4304 requires the child to be asked if their basic needs were met in the home, if they had access to a caseworker or therapist, if they felt safe and comfortable in the home, and whether or not they felt included by their foster family.

“When fostering situations change, we need to understand why,” Ellman said. “Children should feel safe and included in their foster homes, and the data collected from these interviews will improve foster family conditions over time.”

The legislation now awaits further action by the governor.

033122CM0492 rSPRINGFIELD – More members of Gold Star families would be eligible to receive dedicated license plates under legislation sponsored by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) that advanced out of the Senate Thursday.

“Behind every brave service member who answers the call of duty is a family who makes great sacrifices as well,” Ellman said. “When a life is lost in the line of action, those families are left with memories and the thanks of a grateful nation.”

House Bill 5078 expands the current eligibility list for Gold Star Family license plates to include stepchildren, adopted children and half-siblings of veterans who lost their lives serving in a branch of the United States Armed Forces, and waives the registration fee for children in Gold Star Families. The legislation also aligns existing language regarding eligibility for a Gold Star lapel button with language used by the Department of Defense.

“Gold Star Families deserve every ounce of thanks and recognition we can afford them,” Ellman said. “I’m proud to advance this legislation in acknowledgement of their sacrifices and bravery.”

Having passed out of both chambers, House Bill 5078 now awaits further action.

Operation HerStory Mattingly TWFor Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of the brave women whose stories will be shared during our Women's History Month Panel. Lisa Mattingly was a Military Police in the United States Army. She served from November 1974 to October 1977.

On her service: "I did regular police work and took care of a lot of misbehaving soldiers. I participated in reforger every year doing maneuver damage and led a lot of convoys and directed a lot of traffic the tanks would get real close trying to scare you. I learned a lot in the service and it was mostly a good experience, but I outlasted a lot of women and that was sad.

Following her time in the Army: "I was a strong woman back then, but when I left the Army it was hard. At that time it was different; the military was not respected and had some difficult times. When I got out, I still served through working for USPS, but the USPS also has problems and I outlasted a lot of women there, too.

"I became very depressed, and I feel women still have a hard time. The "good old boys" can make it very difficult."

On Operation HerStory: "Operation HerStory was the most wonderful experience in my life; just the whole experience of being cared for and cared about."

On how her service impacts her life today: "Today I am retired from the USPS. Thanks to the VA and the help I have gotten there, I do okay with my depression. Times are not all good, but at least they are not all bad."

On what she would like the community to know about her experience as a woman in the military: "Community goes in waves. Sometimes the military is respected and then not. In World War II, most everyone served that was a community

"Vets that don’t have that comunity feel alone and that they don’t fit in. The VA cannot do it all, community is what brings health to your life. Bring back community."

032922HAO013531 rSPRINGFIELD – A measure initiated by local students to establish Dolostone as the official rock of the State of Illinois was advanced out of the Senate by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville).

“Exceptional young people from across the state came together to bring forth this legislation,” Ellman said. “They saw a fantastic learning opportunity in front of them and took full advantage—and they deserve to have their voices heard.”

House Bill 4261 was brought to the General Assembly by students from Pleasant Dale School in Burr Ridge and Maplebrook Elementary School in Naperville who discovered Illinois did not have a state rock. The students took it upon themselves to interview regional geology scholars, visit museums and do their own research. They then developed a ballot with three choices and asked schools across Illinois to vote on a state rock. Dolostone was the winner.

Dolostone is a sedimentary rock that underlies nearly all of Illinois, with the exception of the northernmost part of the state. It helps enrich soil across the state by providing valuable nutrients for plant growth, and caused a major mineral rush in Galena, Ill. in the early 1800s.

In addition to its natural abundance throughout the state, Dolostone plays a significant role in Illinois through its utilization in many important structures. Most notably, 3,300 exterior dolomite stones were used in the construction of the Old Illinois State Capitol. The quarry the stones were sourced from is now under Lake Springfield.

“Anyone is capable of creating change, and the engaged and curious students who crafted this legislation have proven just that,” Ellman said. “Since they helped us designate our state tree and flower over 100 years ago, our students have been a cornerstone in our state’s history and heritage.”

The legislation, having passed out of both chambers, now awaits further action.

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