in Adoption, Advocacy, Foster Care

Dear DCFS, this is 2010, Thought You Should know

So, with November being National Adoption Month, I wanted to give you guys some information on adopting through the foster care system.  So I began researching, (as usual).  I tend to peck around my own neck of the woods before venturing out into the world so my first stop was the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services website.
Insert Regina’s, “Are you effin kidding me” face.
Mrs.Tiye's "What the Smelly Hell" face

This site is a DISGRACE to its mission!  Being a librarian, I spend a lot of time looking at rather boring databases and ancient websites.  However, with the staggering amount of Illinois children in need of homes, one shouldn’t need a technology degree to navigate the website of an agency that exists to help.

I’m sure there are a lot of computer literate people who have a hard time finding information on the site.  For those who may be interested in this family-building option, the mere appearance of the site is overwhelming and off-putting.  There was absolutely no consideration for literacy when designing this website.  I’m convinced that the information was only placed here, so that no one could say it wasn’t.  In fact, there were quite a few things wrong with the website, specifically concerning visual literacy, so let’s just take a moment and decode, shall we?

  • Text Size – My eyes are 29 years old, and they were ready to turn in their letters of resignation on me.  I could hardly keep my vision straight. Especially when I went to the adoption page, which was my focus for this particular search.  Very small fonts and practically no spacing was a huge hindrance for me, and I’m sure many others.
  • Language Sensitive – If I were a person who was not as comfortable reading in English as in perhaps, Spanish, this site would have failed me.  In websites that are sensitive to the cultures and nationalities that visit them, there is usually some way for visitors to translate the site’s content into their preferred language.  This would cost you no money Governor Quinn, with all the technology available to us novices, it really wouldn’t take but a moment.  This very site, for instance, if you take a look down there at the nifty toolbar I’ve added, will let you translate the Egg to whatever language you choose.  In a state with as large of an urban metropolis as Chicago, there should be far more attention given to the kind of patron that may visit.
  • Non-Linear  Searching – The most frustrating thing about my experience had to be the spread between each topic and it’s additional info.  I click a topic on the far left, get confused by the jibberjab in the center, and then find that to narrow it down, I should have looked at the far right. Who designed this crap?   Obviously someone who was very good at html, but awful at information-seeking.  When a site is done, it should be in the mindset of the kinds of questions visitors will be asking.  My small search about adoption took me to four different pdf files, two dead-ends and a jumbled list of laws.
  • Now, I know what some of you are saying,
    “Why didn’t you just call?  Or go to the office?”
    First, you get this face,
    Secondly, I DID call.
    I got a busy signal.
    And third, this is 2010.   Being a municipality is NO excuse for remaining in 1987 computer trends.
    I felt like Whoopi Goldberg in Jumpin’Jack Flash for a second.
    While there are many independent adoption agencies in this state, and this country for that matter, foster-adoption is an important and necessary part of the family-building discussion.  This is ESPECIALLY in the African American community.  In Illinois, for instance, though blacks only make up 15% of the state population, we make up 64% of the children in foster care.  That is jaw dropping to me (and hopefully to you too).
    My concern was not so much because I’m a bit of a website snob.  My angst erupted from thinking about the children who are potentially forgotten because the process seemed too overwhelming.
    Ridiculous, Illinois.
    Completely embarrassing.
    Do Better.
    In my hunt, I also began looking at other states to see if we were really as bad as I felt we were.  I have to say that perhaps the Children and Family Services offices of this country need some serious overhauls!  Here were a few others I found.
    I have to say, Indiana and  Arkansas, you done me proud!
    Oh..but Nevada, how you suck.  You frustrated me so fast!  Click here to watch me try and click a link on their site.
    Anywhoo, perhaps I’ll return to this post a in a while, so that we can go over the helpful links I was able to find while digging my way through our pitiful website.
    Here’s a little bit to give you some insight on the foster care statistics: Children and Family Research Center of UIC


    Regina Townsend is the primary author and founder of TheBrokenBrownEgg. A librarian and writer, Regina’s mission is to make people aware and active about the unique concerns of reproductive health in the minority community.

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