Laquan McDonald, the teenager shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer in October 2014, was one of eight wards of the state killed in street homicides last year, according to a newly released report by the watchdog of Illinois’ child welfare system. That number is more than twice as many as in any other year of the past five.
Denise Kane, the inspector general of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, singled out the eight wards killed in street homicides in her latest annual report. She found that in the same time period the previous year, three wards were killed in street homicides.
Kane’s report says wards killed in the state’s 2015 fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, were teenagers, with the youngest being 14. In Illinois, wards can age out of the child welfare system at age 21.
Some of the circumstances surrounding the lives of the wards who were killed in street homicides in Kane’s latest report point to the challenges DCFS faces in providing services to older teenagers, including some who reject government services. The inspector general found that the mother of one 18-year-old ward who was shot and killed around 7:30 a.m. in August of 2014 had tried to place the teen in a DCFS shelter, but was unsuccessful. When he turned 18 several months before his death, the ward voluntarily left his residential treatment facility to live, unauthorized, in a relative’s home, the report states.
A different 18-year-old ward of the state had been placed in a shelter after his adoptive parent made multiple, credible statements about wanting to kill the teen, according to Kane’s report. He was largely missing from his shelter in the month leading up to his death in April 2015, and he had requested to return to his adoptive mother. That woman refused to accept him back, the report states. Three months before he died of multiple gunshot wounds, the teen ward became a father.
Kane wouldn’t comment for this story, but she did include an unusually bold introduction to her report, telling Illinois’ governor and lawmakers they “must have a collective conscience to remedy our social failings.”
She also wrote, “When a ward is gunned down in the streets by an officer whose duty is to protect and there is no integrity to those reporting the incident, shame on us as a society.”
The Chicago police officer charged with killing McDonald has pleaded not guilty.
In a statement, Andrew Flach, a spokesman for DCFS, wrote, “The Department is aware and concerned any time a child in the care of the state dies. However, the statistic should serve as a reminder that children in the care of the state are no more or less immune to the increased threat of street violence than any other child in the state.”
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.