CHICAGO — Amaria Osby, 8, told a case worker she felt safe with her mother one day before she was murdered. That’s among the findings of an investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ inspector general.
Police say Osby’s mother admitted to suffocating her daughter after drinking bleach and while high on PCP. “Momma stop!” the 8-year-old screamed as she watched her mother, prosecutors told a judge this summer.
Amaria Osby was 1 of 171 children who died in the past year despite DCFS involvement in their lives, the highest number in 20 years. The agency’s inspector general noted 105 of those children died by accident or natural causes. Gunshot wounds were the second leading cause of a child’s death while on DCFS’ watch.
However, Osby’s death underscored how kids fall through the cracks. The inspector general found a DCFS investigator made “a good faith attempt” to see the child the day after a March 2022 report about a violent fight between the girl’s parents and the use of PCP by her mother. However, the agency documented no further attempts to follow-up for two months. It was only after a new investigator was assigned did a visit occur. That’s when the DCFS worker found no concerns just a few hours before Amaria was murdered.
Cook County public guardian Charles Golbert has been pushing DCFS to implement a series of reforms to better protect kids.
“The [inspector general]’s main systemic issue for this year’s report is significant delays between hotline calls and DCFS’s first contact with the family,” Golbert said. “Delays ranging from a month to more than 300 days after DCFS received the report of abuse.”
The agency continues to claim progress despite an avalanche of need.
“Our highest priority at DCFS is protecting vulnerable children and families,” agency spokesperson Bill McCaffrey told WGN Investigates. “This year’s report covers the more than 425,000 children reached by the department through its work, which is 55% more than a decade ago.”
In recent years DCFS has claimed staffing shortages and the pandemic were complicating efforts to better protect kids.
“Under this administration, the department has strived to meet this increased demand, including hiring 334 additional staff, expanding training and increasing resources for private agency partners,” the DCFS spokesperson said.
DCFS’ inspector general continues to recommend better tracking of families under its watch.