News - McHenry County

McHenry County state’s attorney complained to DCFS about practices in 2018

State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally delivers a press conference to the media on Tuesday, April 23.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally complained to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services about the agency’s practices about a year before the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund of Crystal Lake.

In a May 24, 2018, letter to Carole Ruzicks, the senior director of operations for DCFS’ northern region, Kenneally cited three cases in which DCFS workers were uncooperative or remiss in their handling of investigations. From cases where workers refused to show up to hearings because they “would be washing their hair” to a separate instance involving an infant’s heroin overdose, Kenneally’s frustrations with the agency seemed to have come to a head.

“While normally reticent to write letters of this type, our Office has attempted over the last several months to express our concerns directly to DCFS staff,” Kenneally wrote. “These efforts have been unsuccessful as we believe DCFS administration has not been sufficiently responsive.”

DCFS representatives could not be reached for comment. The names of all parties involved have been redacted from the letter, and Kenneally declined to provide further details about the individual investigations.

In his letter, Kenneally referred to one case in which a DCFS worker wrote that an 11-year-old had credibly reported that someone was using heroin in the home. The worker concluded, however, that there was not “sufficient evidence to warrant more aggressive results,” and the case concluded without any input from prosecutors, Kenneally wrote.

DCFS later learned that two children had discovered heroin and needles in the home, but no referral was made to the state’s attorney’s office, Kenneally said.

In 2018, an infant overdosed on heroin he found in the home while the child’s father was present, according to the letter. The infant was revived with four Narcan shots and stabilized in the hospital after receiving a Narcan drip, Kenneally wrote.

Another person who was charged with child endangerment was involved in a road rage situation while his son was in the car, Kenneally said.

DCFS interviewed the child, who allegedly said his dad was driving the car, puled out a gun and pointed it at the car next to him.

The father was further charged with aggravated assault, but when the prosecutor handling the case tried to reach out to the DCFS worker to appear for a hearing, the worker denied having spoken to the child, Kenneally wrote.

“After the assistant state’s attorney read her the report, she said that she was just covering for someone else on that day and, to paraphrase, ‘this is what she gets for doing someone a favor,’” Kenneally’s letter stated.

The state’s attorney’s office contacted DCFS once more before the hearing, at which point the case worker said she wouldn’t be able to attend because she would be “washing her hair,” according to Kenneally.

Prosecutors had to subpoena the DCFS worker to ensure she would be present for the hearing.

“Her lack of preparation was evidenced by the fact that, at the hearing, she could not answer simple questions about what the child said to her, where the conversation with the child took place, or who else was present for the conversation,” Kenneally wrote.

In another case, DCFS responded to the home where a 3-year-old child had died, and the agency took custody of the surviving children.

When they arrived at the Child Advocacy Center, a DCFS worker refused to change the 1-year-old sibling’s diaper and declined to sign consent forms to have the children interviewed, Kenneally wrote.

When it was time for the children to leave, a DCFS worker refused to carry one of the children to her car, since there were previous reports of bed bugs in the home. He instead made the child walk across the parking lot in her socks, Kenneally wrote. Questioned about the undetailed report that was filed in the case, the DCFS employee claimed he “didn’t work over the weekend,” Kenneally wrote.

Katie Smith

Katie Smith

Katie reported on the crime and courts beat for the Northwest Herald from 2017 through 2021. She began her career with Shaw Media in 2015 at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, where she reported on the courts, city council, the local school board, and business.