Flags in Illinois will fly at half-staff through Saturday in honor of Deidre (Graham) Silas, the Department of Children and Family Services child protection specialist from Springfield who was fatally stabbed while making a visit to a home in Thayer on Jan. 4.
Silas' funeral is at Union Baptist Church on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Howard Reed's hearing in Sangamon County court Thursday was continued until Feb. 3.
Last week, Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher ordered a fitness evaluation of Reed at the defense's request.
Dr. Terry Killian, a Springfield psychiatrist, has met with Reed, but Killian's report is not complete.
Like last week, Reed, 32, appeared by video. About 15 or so DCFS workers were in the courtroom Thursday. Many were wearing green "Justice for Deidre" stickers while others were wearing "DCP strong" T-shirts. "DCP" stands for Division of Child Protection, where Silas worked.
Some Illinois lawmakers are continuing to stump for a bill that will increase penalties for individuals who commit crimes against DCFS employees.
The legislation, known as the Knight-Silas Bill, comes in response to deaths of Silas and Pam Knight, another caseworker who was killed while on the job. It is still in assignments.
"This penalty enhancement for attacking a DCFS investigator or case worker needs to be passed so we can get word out to the public," said Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, a co-sponsor of the legislation. "People do treat, for example, police officers differently, typically, in most situations because they know if they do something to a police officer, it's going to be a harsher penalty.
"If we can put DCFS (employees) in that same category, the word will get out and it will in some instances prevent people from trying to attack them or hurt them."
AFSCME is asking for additional safety measures for DCFS caseworkers and investigators like adequate staffing, expanded training, tools to keep workers safe in the field, improved threat assessments and better collaboration with law enforcement.
UBC's pastor, the Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, met Silas 20 years ago when he was interviewing for the job in Springfield.
"I do remember in the interview process," McJunkins recalled, "she was one of the youths who asked me about my vision, my plans for youth ministry (at the church). I was impressed with her articulating her questions."
Last March, when Silas and her husband, Andre, and their two children decided to move back to Springfield from Kansas, Silas was in touch with McJunkins about a job.
Silas, a criminal justice major at Illinois State University who once worked at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, wanted to work with young people again, McJunkins said, and interviewed at the Sangamon County Juvenile Detention Services, where she once interned.
"She did not get that position and I remember she was really disappointed over that, but then this investigator position opened up," McJunkins recalled. "She was offered the job in July and was back here in August and working."
Silas was "happy. Everything was going well," McJunkins said. "The doors were opening, getting back here to where she called home."
McJunkins said "it's evident, and unfortunately it's at the expense of a life, that DCFS needs to be overhauled. It needs to be revamped. Serious oversight needs to be given.
"I'm concerned about (DCFS) policy. Is policy and protocol being followed?"
McJunkins called Silas' family – her father and mother, Roy and Barie Graham, and brother, Mario, "god-fearing" and said Silas herself was a devout Christian.
"From the spiritual perspective, we have to encourage the family," he said. "Of course, there are so many things we don't understand as to why things happen. But it's the will of God and I wish I had a dollar for every time I did not understand the will of God.
"As I've been telling the people, and more so the family, and I will continue to tell them, when you cannot trust the hand of God, meaning when you don't understand, you can always trust the heart of God because he knows best."
McJunkins, who will preside at Silas' funeral Saturday, said he would want people to know the best attributes of Silas' life.
"Saturday is going to be a celebration of her life," he said.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Flags in Illinois fly at half-staff in honor of slain DCFS worker