WILL COUNTY, Ill. — Days before the fifth anniversary of her passing, a settlement has been reached in the lawsuit stemming from the 2017 death of a Joliet Township toddler whose body was found stuffed in the family’s couch.
While no one has been criminally charged in the death of 17-month-old Sema’j Crosby, the organization in charge of protecting the little girl is being held at least partially responsible.
On April 24th, 2017, a caseworker from Children’s Home and Aid visited Sema’j Crosby’s home. CHA was contracted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to ensure the safety and well-being of children. It marked the 41st time since the previous September that a caseworker went to the Joliet Township home.
The next day, the 17-month-old was reported missing.
After an extensive search, Semaj’s body was found stuffed beneath the family’s couch in the filthy and cramped home.
Chicago attorney Jay Paul Deratany filed a lawsuit for Sema’j’s estate in response.
In an earlier interview with WGN News, Deratany said child services should have done more to remove Sema’j from the home before her passing.
“There were so many warnings to Children Home and Aid and to DCFS that this child was in danger,” Deratany said. “The floor was disgusting, there were roaches on the wall, the place was condemnable, and they knew it and should have known it.”
A half-a-decade later, the civil case settled for almost six and a half million dollars.
In a statement, Deratany said in part, “No amount of money can possibly bring Sema’j Crosby back, but we hope that organizations such as Children’s Home & Aid, as well as other contractors with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services, will abide by their contractual obligations to provide the best possible care for children. There was no reason Sema’j had to die, and the money that will go to her brothers and sisters will never ease the pain.”
Deratany hopes CHA at least learns from its mistakes.
“As one of the supervisors admitted, they took on too many cases and were overworked, and that is a problem. DCFS should monitor the amount of cases they give to a private organization. And, the private organization should not accept cases unless they can provide ALL services and comply with ALL DCFS regulations. We can only hope that more cases like Sema’j Crosby’s do not occur in the future.”
Deretany also said DCFS should have greater control of their contractors. Despite the settlement, attorneys continue to pursue a case in the Court of Claims against DCFS.