SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — A total of 98 children died last year in cases involving the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, according to the Office of the Inspector General.
This more than 200-page report documents almost 100 children who died after some kind of connection to DCFS.
Every year, the Office of the Inspector General investigates the deaths of Illinois children involved with DCFS just before their death.
They investigated the 98 deaths that occurred during July 1st, 2017 and June 30, 2018 in Illinois alone.
We spoke with the Illinois Chapter President of Foster Care Alumni of America, James McIntyre, who went through abuse as a child.
"In my opinion, these are worse than some war crimes. Starvation of a 2-year-old, excessive beatings of a 5-year-old,” McIntyre said.
Of the 98 deaths, 18 were ruled homicides, 26 undetermined, 27 accidents, and 27 natural causes.
Of the 18 homicides, eight from blunt force trauma, six from a gunshot wound, one from stab wounds, one from blunt trauma due to a vehicle striking a bicyclist, and two from dehydration and starvation, similar to Ta'Naja Barnes' case.
Each of these cases involves children whose families were involved in the child welfare system in the preceding 12 months.
“One kid because of a failure of an adult to die because of abuse or neglect is a shame and we need to be looking at ourselves as Illinoisans to say, 'Is this acceptable? And if it’s not acceptable, than what can we do?'" McIntyre said.
We reached out to the acting inspector general for DCFS, Meryl Paniak, to get her comments on her report.
In a statement she said,
“DCFS has lost focus on ensuring the safety and well-being of children as a priority. This is evidenced by several recent cases and the clear lack of attention to assuring children and families receive adequate, thorough, and timely responses and needed services. Investigators, caseworkers and supervisors are unmanaged, and unsupported. Children are dying, children are being left lingering in care, children are being left in in psychiatric hospitals beyond medical necessity causing them to lose hope. This is not just unacceptable it is HARMFUL!”
We reached out to the office of the DCFS director to try to set up an interview but again we have not heard back.
You can read the entire report here.