WBEZ | child abuse http://www.wbez.org/tags/child-abuse Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en After deaths, state rep says Indiana is neglecting child protection agency http://www.wbez.org/news/after-deaths-state-rep-says-indiana-neglecting-child-protection-agency-110235 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Indiana%20DCS%202%20%282%29.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />Months after three young children died in a Hammond, Indiana house fire, a veteran Indiana lawmaker says the state has deprived the Department of Children Services of much-needed funds in order to &lsquo;pad&rsquo; its budget surplus.</p><p>The charges raise fresh questions about the ability of the agency to carry out its mission of protecting children from abuse and neglect.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/nearly-four-months-after-deadly-hammond-fire-several-questions-remain-110074" target="_blank">In the Hammond case</a>, six-month old Jayden, 4-year-old Dasani Young, 4, and Alexia Young, 3 all perished. Two other children managed to escape the fire, with their father Andre Young credited for saving their life.<br /><br />Several parties, from a juvenile judge to the city of Hammond to the birth parents themselves, have been criticized for not preventing the deaths. But many wonder how <a href="http://www.in.gov/dcs/index.htm" target="_blank">DCS</a> allowed the children, who were living in foster care just months prior to the fire, to return to a home with no running water, heat nor electricity.</p><p>&ldquo;Maybe the whole system, the laws failed these people,&rdquo; says DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. &ldquo;Could we have done things better? Probably. Again, I don&rsquo;t know the case intimately. I wasn&rsquo;t the judge. I didn&rsquo;t hear the evidence.<br /><br />Bonaventura was appointed head of Indiana DCS in March 2013 following the ouster of the previous director over an ethics scandal.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think without question this is the most important job in the state,&rdquo; Bonaventura told WBEZ in an exclusive interview last month.&nbsp;<br /><br />Long before Bonaventura took that job, DCS was already facing scrutiny for its handling of several child abuse and neglect cases.</p><p>It still hasn&rsquo;t been officially determined if the three children in the Hammond house fire died because of neglect. But, in the wake of that incident and others, some see a pattern of neglect from those who oversee DCS down in Indianapolis. They say the agency, with 34-hundred employees scattered throughout 92 counties, doesn&rsquo;t get enough money or resources to properly do its job. And they point to other cases where kids may have fallen through the cracks as a result.<br /><br />Like the <a href="http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/gary/christian-choate-wrote-letters-detailing-abuse-mistreatment-before-his-death/article_b1fdc580-8a7d-50f4-b9a7-0503202d0f9f.html" target="_blank">notorious case of Christian Choate,</a> a 13 year old Gary boy whose body was found buried under a concrete slab in a trailer park in 2011, two years after he was first reported missing.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Indiana%20DCS%202%20%281%29%20.jpg" style="height: 438px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Many see the case of 13-year-old Christian Choate of Gary as perhaps the worst example of Indiana Department of Child Services failing to meet its job in recent years. Advocates say more funding is needed for Indiana DCS to prevent more children from falling through the cracks. (Flickr/Monte Mendoza)" />Bonaventura is very familiar with the case.<br /><br />&ldquo;Christian Choate was my case when I was judge. And, so I know a lot about that case intimately. That&rsquo;s probably any judge&rsquo;s or director&rsquo;s or anybody&rsquo;s worst nightmare what happened to Christian Choate,&rdquo; Bonaventura said.&nbsp; &ldquo;A lot of people failed Christian.&rdquo;<br /><br />Before she was appointed to run DCS, Mary Beth Bonaventura served three decades as a juvenile judge in Lake County, Indiana, much of that time as the senior judge. She also became known for regularly appearing on reality television shows like &ldquo;Lake County Lockup&rdquo; and &ldquo;MTV: Juvies.&rdquo;<br /><br />But far from the cameras, Bonaventura still agonizes over the death of Christian Choate, An investigation found that he was routinely beaten, starved and locked up in a dog cage, and that as many as 13 people knew the boy was being abused.</p><p>Bonaventura holds Christian Choate&rsquo;s father and stepmother responsible, and both are now serving time in prison. She also blames the parents of the three Hammond kids for allowing them to live in a house with no utilities.<br /><br />Still, Bonaventura wonders if the agency she now helms, which handles 13,000 cases at any one time, could have done more.<br /><br />&ldquo;Can we ever prevent that from happening? We don&rsquo;t know on a daily basis what people are doing in their own homes,&rdquo; Bonaventura said. &ldquo;But once we get involved with a family, we darn better should know what&rsquo;s going on in that home and prevent any further injury to any children.&rdquo;<br /><br />For DCS to &lsquo;know what&rsquo;s going on in a home&rsquo; it requires money to hire, train and keep experienced case workers &ndash; who make up nearly half of Indiana DCS&rsquo;s 3,400 employees.<br /><br />The average pay of a DCS family case manager is $35,000 a year &ndash;&nbsp;this from a state with a $2 billion surplus.</p><p>&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t do us any good to have a surplus that&rsquo;s built on the backs of Hoosiers, on the backs of the less fortunate. And these kids have nobody to speak for them but the state,&rdquo; said Indiana State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, a Democrat from Munster in Northwest Indiana.</p><p>The veteran Democratic lawmaker takes issue with DCS budget cuts under recent Republican administrations. But more than that, she says DCS has also been giving money back under a process called reversion.<br /><br />$62 million in 2011 alone according to state records, nearly 14 percent of that year&rsquo;s DCS budget.<br /><br />In fact, in the last five years, the child protection agency has returned more than $118 million to state coffers.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="340" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/xsgYF/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe>Reardon says imagine all the DCS caseworkers you could hire with that money.<br /><br />&ldquo;The padding of the surplus that&rsquo;s been touted nationwide, Indiana&rsquo;s surplus,&rdquo; Reardon said.&nbsp; &ldquo;If we actually paid people more and had more employees to handle the workload, you might not have the turnover that you see.&rdquo;<br /><br />Two years ago, the turnover rate among DCS caseworkers was as high as 50 percent in some parts of the state. It can be a traumatic job, and state law stipulates that caseworkers are supposed to have no more than 12 active cases while monitoring 17 children.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Indiana%20DCS%202%20%283%29%20.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="Indiana State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon [D-Munster] says Indiana’s DCS has returned millions of dollars back to the state in order to “pad” the state surplus. (Photo provided by the Statehouse File of Indiana)" />According to DCS&rsquo;s own report from last year, only 3 of its 19 regions were in compliance with the state-mandated caseload law.&nbsp; And more cases are coming in since Indiana recently centralized its child abuse hotline.<br /><br />Last year, case workers handled more than 150,000 calls of potential abuse.<br /><br />&ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t even include the children that we haven&rsquo;t had contact with because a judgment call was made at the call center. These are actual real life children that need care and are in danger, and are not getting the services that they need,&rdquo; Reardon said.</p><p><br />After all the grim news, DCS may be starting to turn things around. This year the state is allocating $13 million in additional money to hire more case workers, boost salaries and enhance its child abuse hotline.</p><p>Last week, a DCS oversight committee, the Commission to Improve the Status of Children in Indiana, reported employee turnover has fallen below 16 percent on average.</p><p>But, even with the changes, DCS will not comply with the 12/17 standard unless additional measures are taken. In order to further ensure that caseloads are in compliance with the 12/17 standard, DCS will need to create 110 new Family Case Manager positions, according to Indiana&rsquo;s DCS 2013 annual report.<br /><br />Alfreda Singleton-Smith is DCS&rsquo; ombudsman, an independent state watchdog for the agency.<br /><br />&ldquo;The issue of fatality reviews and near fatality reviews is the one that started to be of concern simply because of the length of time it was taking to get those completed,&rdquo; Singleton-Smith told WBEZ.<br /><br />Singleton-Smith recently issued a <a href="http://www.in.gov/idoa/files/2013_DCS_Ombudsman_Bureau_Annual_Report_final.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> that found it was taking up to two years in some cases to investigate the deaths or near deaths of children. In that same report, Singleton-Smith said the delay was about more than DCS.<br /><br />&ldquo;In some cases, DCS has to wait to before they can complete their fatality review. The coroner, the prosecutor&rsquo;s office, law enforcement, the hospital, those outside individuals who have their own processes that they have to go through,&rdquo; Singleton-Smith said.<br /><br />Still, DCS head Mary Beth Bonaventura says her agency can &ndash; and must &ndash; do better.<br /><br />&ldquo;Two years is not acceptable. I just think there is so much to do at this agency and maybe at some point, not enough people to do it.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 27 May 2014 11:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-deaths-state-rep-says-indiana-neglecting-child-protection-agency-110235 Child-abuse, neglect deaths in Illinois remain high in DCFS-involved cases http://www.wbez.org/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-illinois-remain-high-dcfs-involved-cases-109545 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/WATCHDOGS-CST-012014-002_43704273-b_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Enoch A. Hayslett brought his 1-month-old son to a hospital emergency room in December 2008, saying the baby was constipated.</p><p>Instead, doctors found the infant had a broken femur &mdash; an injury Hayslett and the child&rsquo;s mother couldn&rsquo;t explain. So the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took protective custody of the baby and his two older siblings, and a Cook County judge ordered that all three children be placed in foster care.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Also read:&nbsp;<a href="http://voices.suntimes.com/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-in-illinois-remain-high-in-dcfs-involved-cases/NEED%20A%20LINK">DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths: 61 children, 61 stories</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Hayslett and their mother went on to have more children: a daughter, another son, then twin boys &mdash; all of whom lived with the couple in the south suburbs as they sought to regain custody of the three older children.</p><p>During that time, DCFS twice investigated complaints that Hayslett was abusing his children but found the allegations not credible, records show.</p><p>Then &mdash; a month after a child-protection investigator closed the second case &mdash; the 5-foot-10, 280-pound Hayslett was charged with beating one of his twin sons to death. The 20-pound boy&rsquo;s skull was fractured, and he had multiple bruises.</p><p>Authorities said Hayslett also abused the other twin and their toddler brother, too.</p><p>They arrested the Lynwood man in December 2012 and charged him with first-degree murder, among other charges.</p><p>Last Father&rsquo;s Day, Hayslett hanged himself at the Cook County Jail.</p><p>His 8-month-old son Lamar Hayslett was among 27 Illinois children to die from abuse or neglect in DCFS&rsquo; last reporting year after they or their families already had been involved with the agency, a <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ examination of newly released records from the DCFS inspector general&#39;s office has found. Five more cases were under investigation, those records show.</p><p>On Wednesday, the head of child-death investigations for DCFS Inspector General Denise Kane said that one of those five pending cases has now been determined not to have involved abuse or neglect. A second case remains under investigation, but not for abuse or neglect.</p><p>Still, the number of DCFS-involved abuse or neglect deaths could reach 30 for the third year in a row.</p><p>In the 2010 reporting year, there were 15 abuse or neglect deaths in which DCFS had had some involvement with the family within a year of the death, according to a <em>Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ investigation published in November.</p><p><em>Chris Fusco is a </em>Chicago Sun-Times<em> staff reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/fuscochris">@fuscochris</a>.&nbsp;Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><script src='//player.ooyala.com/v3/38f013a07e0458db1ee84d020e47cac'></script><div id="ooyalaplayer" style="width:620px;height:348px">&nbsp;</div><script>OO.ready(function() { OO.Player.create('ooyalaplayer', 'twaTQ3azo4VLlw3BvtNWWpWwpcodGHp8'); });</script><noscript><div>Please enable Javascript to watch this video</div></noscript><p>The spike in deaths to 34 in 2011, 34 in 2012 and 27 or more in 2013 has sounded alarms with state lawmakers and some child advocates, who say the agency and the private contractors it hires to monitor child safety aren&rsquo;t doing the job they should.</p><p>DCFS officials dispute that. They say the increase in reported deaths is largely the result of a policy change in late 2011, when the agency started pressing its investigators to discipline parents whose children had died as a result of unsafe sleeping conditions.</p><p>Still, in response to the Sun-Times/WBEZ reports, DCFS&rsquo; acting director, Denise Gonzales, ordered a review of all child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect between 2009 and 2013. That review revealed errors in the department&rsquo;s tracking of how many children statewide died from abuse or neglect, finding that 11 more children had died in that time than the agency had reported.</p><p>Of the 27 DCFS-involved abuse or neglect deaths reported for the 12 months ending June 30, 2013, 12 were caused by abuse and 15 by neglect, according to the Sun-Times/WBEZ examination of DCFS inspector general records.</p><p>Of the neglect deaths, 11 involved infants smothered or suffocated after being placed in dangerous sleeping conditions.</p><p>In many of those cases, the children died even though their caregivers had been trained on safe-sleep practices, records show. They included a 3-month-old girl who died after sleeping on a mattress with her father, who &ldquo;tested positive for cocaine, marijuana and prescribed benzodiazepines,&rdquo; according to the inspector general&rsquo;s case summary. A caseworker had provided the mother with a Pack &rsquo;n Play portable crib and saw the baby with the mother in August and October 2012. The baby died the following month.</p><p><strong>Among the 12 abuse deaths:</strong></p><p>● A 14-year-old autistic boy, Alex Spourdalakis, of River Grove, was found stabbed to death in his bed in June 2013. His 50-year-old mother and 44-year-old live-in caretaker lay unconscious next to him, &ldquo;having taken pills&rdquo; and &ldquo;leaving a letter explaining their actions.&rdquo; DCFS had opened a neglect investigation into his mother six months earlier but found the allegations not credible. The mother and caretaker survived and are now charged with murder.</p><p>● A 5-month-old girl, Angelina Rodriguez, of Chicago&rsquo;s Far North Side, died in April 2013, four days after being hospitalized with a skull fracture and severe brain swelling. Her parents both were charged with murder after her father admitted suffocating her. Three months before Angelina died, school officials called DCFS&rsquo; hotline to report her 6-year-old brother had &ldquo;marks and bruises on his face, neck and arms and after getting sick, he expressed fear of going home early.&rdquo; DCFS cleared the parents of wrongdoing because the child later told an investigator the marks were made by his 2-year-old brother.</p><p>● In a case of the death of a child whose teenage mother had been an abuse victim, 3-week-old Emonie Beasley-Brown was killed in August 2012 when her mother ran away from her South Side home, taking the baby to her boyfriend&rsquo;s house. When the police showed up, the mother hid in a crawlspace with the baby and her boyfriend&rsquo;s mother, who placed her hands over Emonie&rsquo;s mouth to keep her from crying. Emonie died two days later as a result of suffocation. Emonie&rsquo;s teenage mother was convicted of endangering the life and health of a child and sentenced to five years of probation. Her boyfriend&rsquo;s mother was convicted of the same charge and sentenced to four years in prison.</p><p>In January 2012, DCFS had determined that Emonie&rsquo;s mother had been abused earlier that month by her 17-year-old brother, who was a ward of the state.</p><p>DCFS officials point out that they have some level of involvement with about 60,000 families a year. And other child-welfare experts caution the agency shouldn&rsquo;t be judged solely on the fraction of children who die while they or their families are being monitored or under investigation by the agency.</p><p>Still, acting DCFS chief Gonzales says she&rsquo;s convened &ldquo;a team to read every case and tell me what happened. . . . What were the conditions that brought us to that child&rsquo;s death? Was there substance abuse involved? Was there domestic violence involved? Was this just a tired mom with her infant?&rdquo;</p><p>In the case of Lamar Hayslett, Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris says there were &ldquo;missed opportunities&rdquo; to stop the abuse. Besides the two abuse investigations against Enoch Hayslett that DCFS closed without finding wrongdoing, a Cook County judge was told in August 2011 of allegations that Hayslett had abused the three older children in foster care.</p><p>The judge left it to a private agency, Lutheran Social Services, to determine whether the parents should continue to have unsupervised visits with those kids. Those visits were temporarily suspended and then resumed, leading to more allegations from one of Hayslett&rsquo;s children that he was abusing them &mdash; complaints DCFS deemed not credible the month before Lamar died.</p><p>A DCFS spokeswoman says agency Inspector General Denise Kane &ldquo;is conducting a full investigation of this case&rdquo; and that officials &ldquo;cannot comment further pending that review.&rdquo;</p><p>Says Harris: &ldquo;The fact that there was a hotline call that was made just three months before Lamar died, in and of itself, which subsequently was &lsquo;unfounded&rsquo; a month before he died, is definitely troubling to me, and I question some of the investigator&rsquo;s work in terms of responding to the hotline call.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t just want to say &lsquo;If the caseworkers were doing their jobs.&rsquo; But if they had kept their eyes open to all of these multiple factors, maybe there could have been &mdash; maybe Lamar wouldn&rsquo;t have had to have died.&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 20 Jan 2014 01:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-illinois-remain-high-dcfs-involved-cases-109545 New DCFS boss: Report on child deaths 'needs immediate attention' http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-report-child-deaths-needs-immediate-attention-109202 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NEW Denise Gonzales (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The acting director of the state&rsquo;s child-welfare system says she has begun assembling experts to examine the rising number of abuse and neglect deaths among children who have had involvement with the agency, in response to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-losing-more-children-child-abuse-and-neglect-any-time-last-30-years-109155"><em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ investigation</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;I need to get to concrete numbers, the faces behind those numbers, the underlying condition and the contributing factor as to why this happened &mdash; and then put it all together and say, &lsquo;What do we need to do?&rsquo; &rdquo; Denise Gonzalez, named last week to lead the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said Wednesday. &ldquo;This needs to be done in very short order because this is a situation that needs immediate attention.&rdquo;</p><p>Analyzing 10 years of agency reports about DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths, the <em>Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ found 228 such deaths between July 1, 2002, and June, 30, 2012. The number of deaths more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 &mdash; from 15 to 34. It held steady at 34 in 2012.</p><p>Of the 2012 deaths involving the agency, 15 were caused by abuse, including children beaten or shot to death by their caregivers &mdash; the highest number of abuse deaths since 2007, the news organizations found</p><p>The other 19 DCFS-involved deaths in 2012 were caused by neglect. Eleven involved infants smothered or falling after being placed in dangerous sleeping conditions. Such deaths often weren&rsquo;t classified as neglect until late 2011, when DCFS began pressing its investigators to discipline parents who&rsquo;d been educated about sleep safety or placed their children in unsafe sleep conditions because of alcohol or drug use.</p><p>Statewide, there were 111 child abuse and neglect death cases in a 12-month period ending in mid-2013 &mdash; the most in Illinois in 30 years. The report from the agency&rsquo;s inspector general, Denise Kane, that will detail which of those deaths involved families DCFS was monitoring or investigating typically won&rsquo;t be out until January.</p><p>Gonzalez &mdash; who has worked in Illinois&rsquo; and Iowa&rsquo;s child-welfare systems since 1987 &mdash; took over as acting director of the agency on Friday, replacing Richard Calica, who stepped down following a cancer diagnosis.</p><p>The <em>Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ analysis has prompted calls to improve child safety, including recommendations from Kane, who said last week there needs to be better coordination between DCFS and the Chicago Police Department on child-protection investigations. Kane also said more DCFS workers need to be working evening and night shifts &mdash; times when families typically are home.</p><p>Gonzalez said she has spoken with Kane and other experts within and outside the agency about the increase in child deaths. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve got preliminary information starting to come in,&rdquo; Gonzalez said.</p><p>As for Kane&rsquo;s suggestions, Gonzalez said: &ldquo;We need to be where the family is. ... We&rsquo;re doing an analysis of that at this time so that we can appropriately respond to when children and families are in need.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re starting to put the pieces together and reaching out to law enforcement. We have to share the information and decide how we&rsquo;re going to work together collaboratively.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Tony Arnold is a reporter for WBEZ.&nbsp;</em><em>Chris Fusco is a Sun-Times reporter.&nbsp;</em><em>Follow them on Twitter</em>&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a> <em>and</em>&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/fuscochris">@FuscoChris</a>.</p></p> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 13:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-report-child-deaths-needs-immediate-attention-109202 Did the Illinois system fail a dead baby girl? http://www.wbez.org/news/did-illinois-system-fail-dead-baby-girl-109172 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.41.08 AM_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>State child-welfare investigators first suspected something was wrong inside little Jillian Kalous&rsquo; home on April 24, 2012. That&rsquo;s when the then-3-month-old girl was admitted to Sherman Hospital in Elgin with multiple broken bones.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Children and Family services investigated, determining that the infant and her brother both were at &ldquo;substantial risk of abuse.&rdquo; Officials later took the children from their parents, records show.</p><blockquote><p><strong>SPECIAL REPORT: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-losing-more-children-child-abuse-and-neglect-any-time-last-30-years-109155" target="_blank">Illinois is losing more children to child abuse and neglect than any time in the last 30 years</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>But that summer, a Kane County judge decided that Jillian and her brother Bradley should be returned to Kevin and Jaclyn Kalous, who were raising them in a well-kept split level in a quiet neighborhood on Elgin&rsquo;s northwest side.</p><p>Then &mdash; two days before what would have been Jillian&rsquo;s first Halloween &mdash; paramedics were called and rushed Jillian back to Sherman.</p><p>Doctors there noted &ldquo;massive brain swelling and visible bruising on both inner thighs&rdquo; and transferred her to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. She died there on Nov. 2, 2012.</p><p>The Cook County medical examiner ruled the case a homicide, finding that the 9-month-old &ldquo;died of blunt head trauma due to child abuse.&rdquo;</p><p>Now, more than a year later, the Elgin police are still investigating her death &mdash; and the Kalous family says the medical examiner&rsquo;s conclusion is wrong.</p><p>The case underscores the difficulties involved in removing children from their families after an allegation of abuse or neglect.</p><blockquote><p><strong>CHART: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/did-system-fail-dead-baby-girl-109172#chart" target="_self">How many kids are in foster care?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>DCFS took that dramatic step with the Kalous family after the first report of abuse in the household. Attempts to reach Kane County&rsquo;s chief judge about why Jillian and her brother were ordered returned to her parents were unsuccessful.</p><p>DCFS officials declined to comment on the case, citing juvenile confidentiality laws.</p><p>Speaking generally, outgoing DCFS director Richard Calica says the agency and the courts frequently are forced to make difficult decisions about whether to leave children in their homes.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you decide which particular individual is likely to inflict a fatal injury on their child in the future?&rdquo; Calica says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re walking an interesting tightrope because we&rsquo;re trying to protect children without harming them.</p><p>&ldquo;When you take a kid away from their parent, you&rsquo;re mutilating them psychologically. . . . So while we&rsquo;re trying on the one hand to decide whether the parent is really going to hurt this kid or not, which is a very inexact science, we have the other problem of trying to &lsquo;first do no harm.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>Those decisions are at the heart of a rise over the past few years in the number of child abuse and neglect deaths statewide in which DCFS was investigating or monitoring the children and their families.</p><p>The number of those deaths more than doubled, from 15 in 2010 to 34 in 2011, and held steady at 34 last year despite the child-welfare system&rsquo;s involvement, a Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ examination of 10 years of neglect and abuse cases found.</p><p>DCFS now has once again removed Bradley Kalous from the custody of his parents, according to Kevin Kalous.</p><p>&ldquo;They took him the day Jillian went to the hospital,&rdquo; Kalous says, putting him with a grandparent. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re still waiting to determine what happens to our son.&rdquo;</p><p>His attorney, Kent Dean, says: &ldquo;There are ongoing proceedings in relation to this matter, and it would not be appropriate to comment other than to confirm that my clients have been cooperative at all turns and steadfastly deny causing harm to their child. They are exemplary people, and our medical experts have a very different interpretation, which contradicts what the Cook County medical examiner&rsquo;s office stated.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the medical examiner&rsquo;s report, Kevin Kalous heard Jillian gagging and choking around 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012, shortly after he&rsquo;d given her baby formula and put her in her crib.</p><p>&ldquo;Mr. Kalous went and reached for the subject, when the subject became unresponsive,&rdquo; the report says. &ldquo;When he heard the subject gagging and choking, he performed a finger swipe, with negative results.&rdquo;</p><p>Kalous called the fire department and was performing CPR when his daughter vomited, according to the report, which says Jillian suffered from &ldquo;multiple seizures&rdquo; while being treated at Lutheran General before her Nov. 2 death.</p><p>Elgin police and the Kane County state&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office won&rsquo;t comment, citing the pending investigation<a name="chart">.</a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/xbwi3/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><em>Chris Fusco and Monifa Thomas are </em>Sun-Times<em> staff reporters. Tony Arnold is a reporter for </em>WBEZ<em>.</em></p></p> Sat, 16 Nov 2013 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/did-illinois-system-fail-dead-baby-girl-109172 Illinois is losing more children to child abuse and neglect than any time in the last 30 years http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-losing-more-children-child-abuse-and-neglect-any-time-last-30-years-109155 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Gina%20Marie%20Presley%2C%203.jpg" style="height: 286px; width: 200px; float: right;" title="Gina Marie Presley, 3" /><em>Updated 11/15/13: Richard Calica, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-dcfs-director-resign-due-illness-109166" target="_blank">has resigned</a>. &nbsp;A statement from the governor&#39;s office said the resignation is due to a serious illness.&nbsp;</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">About a month before 3-year-old Gina Presley died, her grandfather says he began calling the state&rsquo;s child-abuse hotline, worried about her safety.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Days passed, and nothing happened.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So Gerald Presley went to the Oak Forest police on March 11, telling them there might be &ldquo;drug use&rdquo; in the home where Gina lived with his sister &mdash; her legal guardian &mdash; and his sister&rsquo;s new boyfriend, records show. Presley says the police told him to call the hotline again, and he did.</div><p>Eight days later, Illinois child-welfare officials asked police to make a &ldquo;well-being check&rdquo; on Gina, based on &ldquo;reports of her having bruises,&rdquo; according to a police report.</p><p>When officers got there that evening, no one was home.</p><p>A week later, Gina was found dead, allegedly killed by the boyfriend who had caused Gerald Presley&rsquo;s concern, prompting him to call the child-abuse hotline &ldquo;at least&rdquo; three times.</p><p>&ldquo;I started calling at the end of February or in early March, but they didn&rsquo;t take me seriously,&rdquo; Presley says. &ldquo;You see what happened.&rdquo;</p><p>What happened is part of an alarming trend in Illinois: More kids are dying from child abuse and neglect, and a growing number of those deaths are occurring despite the child-welfare system&rsquo;s involvement in investigating or monitoring their care, a WBEZ and <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> examination of 10 years of neglect and abuse cases has found.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/child-welfare-just-placeholder-title-logo-109155#charts"><strong>RISING TOLL: Interactive Charts</strong></a></p></blockquote><p>For the 12 months ending June 30, 2013, child deaths statewide caused by abuse or neglect hit a 30-year high, according to data from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, with the number of cases topping 100 for the first time since 1989.</p><p>Agency officials say most of the abuse and neglect deaths &mdash; about three out of four &mdash; did not involve households the department had prior contact with, though it isn&rsquo;t clear how they determined that. DCFS doesn&rsquo;t release year-by-year statistics on the number of children dying as a result of abuse or neglect while the agency is investigating or monitoring them.</p><p>What WBEZ and the <em>Sun-Times</em> found, though, was that abuse and neglect deaths in which the department had prior involvement more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 &mdash; from 15 deaths to 34. There were 34 deaths again in 2012, 15 of them caused by abuse and 19 by neglect.</p><p>To determine how many abuse and neglect deaths there were in cases involving families with whom the agency was involved, WBEZ and the<em> Sun-Times</em> reviewed the annual reports produced by DCFS Inspector General Denise Kane. Those reports list the cause of death for children whose families had contact with the agency within one year of the death and for children who were wards of the state when they died.</p><p>Of the 19 DCFS-involved neglect deaths, 11 involved infants being smothered or falling after being placed in dangerous sleeping conditions. Such deaths often weren&rsquo;t classified as neglect until late 2011, when DCFS began pressing its investigators to discipline parents who had been educated about sleep safety or who had placed their children in unsafe sleep conditions because of alcohol or drug use.</p><p>Because Kane&rsquo;s analysis is limited to &ldquo;the deaths of Illinois children whose families were involved in the child-welfare system within the preceding 12 months,&rdquo; the number of deaths in families with whom DCFS had been involved could be higher.</p><blockquote><p><strong>RELATED: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-actions-prompt-calls-change-109171" target="_blank">Lawmaker, inspector call for DCFS fixes</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Elijah Mims, a 4-year-old South Holland boy, was one of those her analysis did not count. He died while being treated for lymphangiomatosis, a rare disease in which non-malignant tumors attack the body.</p><p>Elijah&rsquo;s 13-year-old brother found him &ldquo;face-down on his bed with white foam around his mouth&rdquo; on Feb. 12, 2012, according to a Cook County medical examiner&rsquo;s report. Elijah died two days later from what authorities concluded was an accidental overdose of morphine. South Holland police reported the case to DCFS &ldquo;as suspected child abuse&rdquo; and continue to investigate, records show.</p><p>DCFS had investigated Elijah&rsquo;s home five times, including twice in 2008, when child-protection officials found the accusations to be credible, the<em> Sun-Times</em> reported after his death.</p><p>Elijah&rsquo;s case isn&rsquo;t among those Kane includes in her 2012 report, though. That&rsquo;s because his family&rsquo;s most recent contact with DCFS had been more than a year earlier, the cutoff point for her analysis.&nbsp;</p><p>Attempts to reach Elijah&rsquo;s parents were unsuccessful.</p><p>Even when deaths occur within the one-year window, some cases still might not be counted because DCFS officials rely on &ldquo;coroners, hospitals and law enforcement in Illinois to report child deaths,&rdquo; Kane writes. &ldquo;The deaths are not always reported. Therefore, true statistical analysis of child deaths in Illinois is difficult because the total number of children that die in Illinois each year is unknown.&rdquo;</p><p>The overall increase in the number of abuse and neglect deaths &mdash; regardless of whether DCFS was involved &mdash; is &ldquo;troubling, and we need to figure it out,&rdquo; says Benjamin S. Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois who monitors DCFS under a federal court order.</p><p>DCFS director Richard Calica says he has eliminated management positions and converted them to investigator jobs in an effort to improve child safety. Calica says that has reduced caseloads that were as high as 25 per investigator when he took over the agency nearly two years ago. His investigators now typically handle nine cases each.</p><p>Wolf says the higher number of DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths in 2011 and 2012 could reflect the high past caseloads.</p><p>&ldquo;If you investigate late and you investigate sloppily, it&rsquo;s more likely that something bad will happen to that child,&rdquo; Wolf says. &ldquo;Hopefully, the improvements we&rsquo;ve made in the caseloads of investigators in the last year will cause some improvements in the coming years.&rdquo;</p><p>Gina Presley appeared to be in a safe environment until her guardian, Kim DeBartolo, 45, filed for divorce late last year, and her new boyfriend, Jessie Rodriguez, moved in to her Oak Forest home. DeBartolo began caring for Gina &mdash; whose parents were teens when she was born &mdash; when she was 6 months old.</p><p>Rodriguez, who&rsquo;d been convicted of gun and drug crimes in the early 1990s and sentenced to probation, is now being held at the Cook County Jail, where he awaits trial for murder in Gina&rsquo;s death. The little girl died from &ldquo;blunt force trauma due to child abuse,&rdquo; authorities concluded.</p><p>Gerald Presley says he wishes his warnings to DCFS and the police could have gotten Gina out of harm&rsquo;s way. &ldquo;I know a lot of stuff falls through the cracks with them,&rdquo; he says of DCFS.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Calica calls every child death &ldquo;a horror&rdquo; but says that, given the number of cases DCFS handles each year, &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s real important to understand from a demographics standpoint that while any death is a horror, one out of 39,000 isn&rsquo;t a bad error rate. I think it&rsquo;s unfair to judge a system by a tragedy and have tragedies drive public policy and the entire system, when certain tragedies, I&rsquo;m sorry, are not preventable.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Patrick Smith contributed research and reporting for this story<a name="charts">.</a>&nbsp;</em></div><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/tcXoB/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/9cQJH/3/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><a name="video">Video</a></p><script src='//player.ooyala.com/v3/38f013a07e0458db1ee84d020e47cac'></script><div id="ooyalaplayer" style="width:620px;height:348px">&nbsp;</div><script>OO.ready(function() { OO.Player.create('ooyalaplayer', 'RncXk5aDoO0ynWCWH8P3UucoDTsLAXZQ'); });</script><noscript><div>Please enable Javascript to watch this video</div></noscript></p> Fri, 15 Nov 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-losing-more-children-child-abuse-and-neglect-any-time-last-30-years-109155 Education groups help in fight against child abuse http://www.wbez.org/news/education-groups-help-fight-against-child-abuse-108829 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/abuseposter.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Some key education groups in Illinois are out to help stem child abuse.</p><p>The Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois PTA will participate in the state&rsquo;s &ldquo;You are not alone&rdquo; campaign.</p><p>&ldquo;We are all committed to working together to ensure safe, loving homes and brighter futures for children,&rdquo;&nbsp; Roger Eddy, director of IASB, in a press release. &ldquo;School board members across Illinois understand that children can&rsquo;t do their homework if they don&rsquo;t have a safe home to go to at night, or their home is in chaos because of abuse or domestic violence.&rdquo;</p><p>The campaign features posters and social media advertising urging kids to report their abuse.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services started sending out posters to schools last month.</p><p>It carries a simple message: &ldquo;You are not alone.&rdquo;</p><p>DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin says in addition to getting more reports, the department wants to combat the feeling of isolation that comes when children are abused.</p><p>On the same day that the statewide groups pledged their support, DCFS added a crucial school district to its coalition: Chicago Public Schools and its roughly 400,000 students.</p><p>Clarkin says it&rsquo;s important for kids to report their own abuse, because too many Illinois adults are letting them down.</p><p>&ldquo;One in five kids in Illinois are abused or neglected before they turn 18, and unfortunately children tell an average of seven adults that they&rsquo;re being abused or neglected before an adult calls the hotline,&rdquo; Clarkin said. &ldquo;All nine million adults in Illinois have a shared responsibility to report abuse and neglect. Unfortunately not every adult lives up to that responsibility and when that&rsquo;s the case we want to make sure that children know that helps is available.&rdquo;</p><p>Clarkin says the department already gets more information from children who are siblings of kids being abused than they do from other adult relatives. He said sometimes children as young as 6 call the hotline to report the abuse of their brother or sister.</p><p>The posters - in both English and Spanish - are being sent out to more than 600 Illinois school districts. The department estimates the posters will reach about 1.5 million students.</p><p>&ldquo;If children haven&rsquo;t seen them already they should [soon]. But the folks at our hotline report that we&rsquo;re already seeing an increase in calls to the hotline, so it looks like the campaign is working.&rdquo;</p><p>The campaign urges children who are being abused to call the DCFS hotline at 1-800-252-2873.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 02 Oct 2013 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education-groups-help-fight-against-child-abuse-108829 90 Illinois children died of neglect, abuse in 2012 http://www.wbez.org/news/90-illinois-children-died-neglect-abuse-2012-104829 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says neglect and abuse killed 90 children in the state last year and almost half were infants who died in unsafe sleeping conditions.</p><p>Department spokesman Dave Clarkin said Thursday the total could rise. More than 60 2012 death investigations are still pending.</p><p>Clarkin says 40 of the children were infants who suffocated while sleeping with parents, with blankets or on their stomachs. All of those practices are dangerous.</p><p>Clarkin says the department has worked hard to warn young mothers but now needs to try to reach grandmothers. He says young moms overwhelmingly go to their own mothers for parenting advice.</p><p>Homicides were the second-largest category of deaths. Twenty-two of the neglect and abuse deaths were homicides.</p></p> Thu, 10 Jan 2013 12:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/90-illinois-children-died-neglect-abuse-2012-104829 Illinois announces upgrade to child abuse hotline http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-announces-upgrade-child-abuse-hotline-104100 <p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois&#39; child welfare agency has launched a new computerized child abuse hotline in response to complaints its old system was failing to handle the volume of calls.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services announced the new $474,000 system Wednesday.</p><p>The department received more than 250,000 calls last year, but a majority of the callers didn&#39;t immediately reach a child abuse expert and had to be called back.</p><p>The department&#39;s new director, Richard Calica, says the hotline&#39;s problems meant unacceptable delays in sending investigators out into the field and getting help to children and families. Calica says replacing the old hotline is a smart investment.</p><p>The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 09:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-announces-upgrade-child-abuse-hotline-104100