Report: 123 Illinois children died in 2019 despite contact with DCFS

A report highlighting persistent problems within Illinois’ child welfare agency showed 123 children died in the past fiscal year despite having contact with the Department of Children and Family Services.

Posted: Jan 6, 2020 1:26 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2020 1:51 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — A report highlighting persistent problems within Illinois’ child welfare agency showed 123 children died in the past fiscal year despite having contact with the Department of Children and Family Services.

It was the highest number since the fiscal year ending in 2005, when the number was 139 deaths, according to annual reports released each January by the department’s inspector general. The lowest it was during that that time was 84 in the fiscal year ending in 2010.

Of the 123 deaths, 24 were ruled homicides, 37 were accidental, 34 were natural, seven were suicide and 21 were undetermined.

The inspector general reviewed cases where children died despite having come in contact with DCFS in the 12 preceding months. The reported cited ongoing and well-publicized issues including children killed after the agency left them with abusive parents, a lack of foster homes for children whose first language isn’t English and children kept beyond medical necessity in psychiatric hospitals.

“We, Illinois, must do better,” said Meryl Paniak, acting inspector general in the report. “We need to do more to support families early on, before they get into deep trouble. But when families are broken, we need to act decisively to protect children.”

The dense 384-page report made specific recommendations on individual cases and for the agency overall, which should “begin to analyze families in totality and in context, not focusing narrowly on the facts in the most recent hotline report,” according to the report.

A DCFS spokesman didn’t immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Paniak noted the case of a 5-year-old suburban Chicago boy, Andrew “A.J.” Freund, who died despite having a long history of contact with the agency. He was found last year beaten to death in a shallow grave not far from the family’s Crystal Lake home. His parents have been charged with murder, a federal lawsuit has been filed and two state employees have been fired amid an ongoing internal investigation.

Paniak said investigators “ignored the parents’ long history of addiction″ and the cases highlights ”opportunities DCFS missed to strengthen viable families.″

The inspector general concluded there wasn’t a single answer to address the agency’s issues, but proposed a set of fixes including more training, strong supervision of frontline workers and manageable caseloads.

Agency officials agreed with several case recommendations in the report and have said that DCFS has been decimated by years of budget cuts under previous administrations. Recently, they’ve pointed to an expansion of simulation training and the hiring of hundreds of new employees under Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who took office a year ago.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1686048

Reported Deaths: 28081
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook63820111231
DuPage1089831384
Will918501131
Lake805551091
Kane68798876
Winnebago41428561
Madison40281602
St. Clair36406601
McHenry35007334
Champaign27150197
Peoria27055370
Sangamon25898287
McLean23165220
Tazewell20730333
Rock Island18969364
Kankakee18011250
Kendall16338114
Macon15382252
LaSalle15106287
Vermilion14519201
Adams13215153
DeKalb12238134
Williamson12112176
Whiteside8338184
Jackson812295
Boone798183
Coles7956127
Ogle762490
Grundy742886
Franklin7361115
Knox7352169
Clinton7143102
Macoupin7010107
Marion6960144
Effingham6674100
Henry666577
Jefferson6590143
Livingston600798
Stephenson591394
Woodford580692
Randolph5571101
Christian537782
Fulton529777
Monroe5274103
Morgan5103100
Logan496975
Montgomery494183
Lee480662
Bureau445491
Saline437369
Perry435075
Fayette433664
Iroquois424677
McDonough377661
Shelby351349
Jersey338253
Lawrence336333
Crawford334430
Douglas329237
Union308248
Wayne306863
White281233
Richland280757
Hancock274835
Clark267240
Cass266831
Pike266058
Edgar261049
Clay260454
Bond258025
Ford246959
Warren245366
Moultrie238333
Carroll237438
Johnson231432
Wabash217819
Massac217751
Jo Daviess217429
Mason214553
Washington213428
De Witt207530
Greene205840
Mercer205636
Piatt203614
Cumberland190526
Menard172813
Jasper161821
Marshall141921
Hamilton134522
Schuyler109510
Brown107110
Pulaski104912
Edwards104218
Stark81928
Gallatin7959
Alexander74112
Scott7146
Henderson71214
Calhoun6942
Hardin61516
Putnam5684
Pope5586
Unassigned1152433
Out of IL140

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 1011197

Reported Deaths: 16524
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1359292129
Lake666181167
Allen58254802
Hamilton46498467
St. Joseph44559617
Elkhart36044510
Vanderburgh32333481
Tippecanoe28037260
Johnson25196446
Hendricks23960360
Porter22985367
Madison18820410
Clark18609253
Vigo17530303
Monroe15319200
LaPorte15230252
Delaware15127264
Howard14801290
Kosciusko12410149
Hancock11773176
Bartholomew11695180
Warrick11305189
Floyd11138215
Wayne11023253
Grant10131220
Morgan9506177
Boone8965116
Dubois8281131
Henry8252153
Dearborn823493
Noble8064106
Marshall7981135
Cass7556123
Lawrence7479172
Shelby7216119
Jackson700990
Gibson6614115
Harrison651892
Huntington6447100
Knox6427106
DeKalb6363100
Montgomery6293112
Miami595298
Putnam584179
Clinton579271
Whitley568455
Steuben566876
Wabash5363104
Jasper536180
Jefferson513297
Ripley501987
Adams483777
Daviess4684115
Scott439875
Greene427296
Clay426960
Wells426088
White420964
Decatur4177104
Fayette407387
Jennings390262
Posey377544
LaGrange361778
Washington360451
Randolph3476100
Spencer340743
Fountain336160
Sullivan330852
Starke319171
Owen315571
Fulton313468
Orange295064
Jay285546
Franklin266443
Perry265752
Rush263832
Carroll262434
Vermillion259854
Parke232029
Pike229643
Tipton229059
Blackford195042
Pulaski184657
Crawford160125
Newton159848
Benton151217
Brown147047
Martin139319
Switzerland135311
Warren121416
Union107216
Ohio84613
Unassigned0544