2018 Report Shows Nearly 100 Children Died While Involved in Illinois Welfare System
Each year, the Office of the Inspector General investigates deaths and serious injuries of Illinois children whose families were involved in the child welfare system. The Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) Office has released a report by Acting Inspector General Meryl Paniak stating 98 children involved with the child welfare agency died in fiscal year 2018. The deaths were investigated between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. No names or exact locations were used in the report but Cook County was home to the highest number of deceased children connected to the system compared to the rest of the state.
Paniak expressed concern in a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration and the General Assembly saying, “The incidence of child maltreatment is deeply influenced by poverty, violence, mental health and substance use. System-wide collaboration and data-sharing across multiple service sectors—child welfare, juvenile justice, early childhood, education, public health, and behavioral and mental health fields—are essential to improving child and family safety and well-being on a broad scale.”
Between fiscal years 2013 and 2018, child deaths were investigated by children who were involved in the DCFS system spiked to 1,982 total cases. Our legal team remains saddened to hear of these child tragedies and will unremittingly follow the new Governor’s public commitment to fund, staff, and build-up DCFS services across the state.
Cook County Has History of Poor Child Welfare Practices
Cook County was home to the highest number of welfare related child deaths (38) in 2018. 12 of which had an undetermined cause of death, 7 by homicide, 7 by accident, and 9 child deaths by natural causes. Also disclosed within the report were detailed cases of children left in psychiatric hospitals past their discharge dates striking a local reminder of the federal class action lawsuit filed against Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in December by the Cook County Public Guardian on behalf of 15 children. Additionally, federal inspection reports in 2018, show DCFS had investigated 16 allegations of abuse and neglect, many sexual in nature, at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, a private psychiatric facility located in the northside of the city. Most of the children, some as young as 3-years-old, arrive at the hospital under state care to be treated for mental health and abuse and neglect issues at home, only to find themselves frequently stuck in the facility’s system and unnecessarily hospitalized after so-called treatment has finished simply because DCFS has nowhere else to place them. Many of these young patients are low-income children with an already traumatic history of abuse and neglect, or drug and alcohol addictions.
Chicago’s Most Respected Attorneys
Levin & Perconti has become one of the most widely-known and respected wrongful death, abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million-dollar verdicts and settlements. If a child has sustained death, physical or emotional injury while dependent on an agency or institution, they may be entitled to compensation.
There is a time limit to file a case in Illinois, so please contact us now for a free consultation or schedule a call with one of our skilled attorneys by dialing (877) 374-1417 or (312) 332-2872.