Public guardian: 8 kids dead in 8 months, despite DCFS involvement
CHICAGO — An average of one child per month is dying despite involvement of Illinois’ child welfare agency, according to a new filing in federal court.
Cook County public guardian Charles Golbert highlighted the May 25 death of Amaria Osby in Chicago. The 8-year-old was murdered, allegedly by her mother, hours after a delayed visit by an investigator from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
DCFS said the investigator noted no concerns in the household.
“As long as DCFS’s investigators continue to labor under untenable caseloads, in an inept bureaucracy without the supports they need – all in violation of the consent decree in this case – children and investigators alike will continue to be at risk of harm,” Cook County public guardian Charles Golbert wrote to a federal judge overseeing DCFS.
Osby’s case is not the first one in which the child welfare agency has faced criticism for its actions. DCFS investigators closed a case months before 5-year-old AJ Freund was found murdered in his Crystal Lake home in 2019. Two workers were fired for their handling of the case; and, in a rare move, later charged criminally for allegedly failing to protect AJ.
AJ’s parents were charged with the boy’s murder and both pleaded guilty in the case.
DCFS has also faced criticism for not being fully transparent in cases involving the deaths of children in its care. The agency has refused to release records related to the investigator’s visits to Amaria Osby’s home, citing state law and statutes to protect her privacy, despite the fact she is dead.
A DCFS inspector general’s report in 2020 found 123 children had died within a year of becoming involved with the child welfare system in the previous fiscal year. Twenty-four of the deaths were ruled homicides, 37 were accidental, 34 were deemed “natural,” seven were suicides and the cause of death in 21 was undetermined.
DCFS sent WGN Investigates the following statement.
“The Department of Children and Family Services is deeply committed to protecting vulnerable children and strengthening families, and the loss of any child has a profound impact on the entire agency. Both the supervisor and the investigator in the Amaria Osby case are not performing child protection duties at this time and the Department is determining the appropriate personnel action. We cannot comment further as there are ongoing investigations and continuing litigation.”
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