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Toddler's Death May Force Changes at DCFS

Department of Child and Family Service officials promise changes during a joint Senate hearing this week. (
Department of Child and Family Service officials promise changes during a joint Senate hearing this week. (
July 27, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Changes are promised at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services after the death this spring of a toddler from Joliet. And some state lawmakers say if more safety precautions aren't put into place, legislation forcing the issue will be forthcoming.

DCFS officials have been facing tough questions about why 17-month-old Semaj Crosby died. In April, the little girl was reported missing by her family, then found dead under a couch in the trash-filled house, just days after a social worker was there for an inspection.

Investigators learned Will County probation officers had visited the home 40 times in the last year, and the sheriff's office was there more than a dozen times.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, said there was no communication between agencies, and that the system failed the toddler.

"There were multiple investigators over a period of several months who were called to the home for a variety of reasons,” Morrison observed. "The investigators didn't know that anyone else had been there. There was no record."

A 22-page report details a host of problems at DCFS, including an incentive program for workers who close the most cases each month. New acting Director Beverly Walker has promised that changes will be made.

Morrison said legislation may be needed to make parents more accountable for cooperating with DCFS. Currently, cooperation with the agency is voluntary.

"These are the most vulnerable people that we'll ever interact with. These children have no one else besides us to make sure that we're doing this correct,” she said. "A mistake can be a fatality. We absolutely have to do a much better job."

No charges have been filed in the death of the little girl. Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said they are still interviewing witnesses. Police say several squatters were living in the family's home at the time the girl died. No cause of death has been determined.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL