Community activists call for review of DCFS after 2-year-old killed

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CHICAGO — Community activists are calling for a top to bottom review of the Department of Children and Family Services.

The calls come after a 2-year-old boy was found beaten to death after reportedly being checked by the state agency.

The governor has promised more caseworkers and a new director to try and fix what seems to be a growing problem inside the agency.

Two-year-old Ja’hir Gibbons was found dead earlier this week in his Washington Park home — his mother Brittany Hyc and her boyfriend Dejon Waters have been arrested in connection to the boy’s death.

Court papers say Waters beat the child until he foamed at the mouth and died.

Ja’hir had previous injuries and his mother, prosecutors say, had looked up how to hide bruises on the internet.

Allegations of abuse began with older siblings back in 2010.  Last weekend, a caseworker contracted by DCFS visited the home and reported Ja’hir and his 5-year-old brother were safe.  The next day the worker filed another report saying only the older child was at home.

In 2018, a case worker said they had heard what they thought was a child being beaten by Waters.

DCFS has opened an investigation and barred the worker from any contact with families and said falsifying records will not be tolerated.

DCFS Interim Director Debra Dyer-Webster released a report, timeline and statement Friday saying,

Ja’hir Gibbons was just 2 years old when he died this week, and the amount of pain this child experienced in his short life is devastating. Our whole agency is shaken by this loss, as we are anytime children in our care die. We must do better, whether it’s how we investigate and respond to these cases, how we oversee and use the private agencies we contract to provide services, and in how we communicate with the communities we serve. The governor has made it clear that protecting vulnerable children is a core priority, and in providing 126 additional caseworkers in his proposed budget, we are taking a significant step forward. But there is no one who thinks our work ends there. Over the coming weeks and months, we are committed to increasing our capacity even further, conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work to understand where we come up short, and being fully transparent with the public as to the steps we are taking. This will not be quick or easy, and many of the challenges we face are longstanding and entrenched, but everyone in this administration is deeply committed to overcoming them and providing the care that our vulnerable children and families truly deserve.

Read the full report including the timeline here (pdf)

The governor says a nationwide search is underway for a director in place to replace the interm director:

There have been 12 directors of this agency in the past decade.


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