Girl’s Suicide Raises Question About Home For Troubled Youth

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — A teenage girl who took her life on railroad tracks in Naperville last month was a resident of a home that is supposed to protect some of the state’s most vulnerable young people.

CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigated allegations the home was out of control.

ChildServ in Naperville is where 15-year-old Caitlin Lee lived until she took her own life on nearby railroad tracks.

Her mother, Mary Lee, blames the system and the home that was supposed to take care of her troubled daughter, who was a danger to herself and became a ward of the state.

“I just remember screaming out, ‘I told you this was going to happen,'” Mary Lee said about her daughter, who reportedly was not doing well at ChildServ.

During her three-month stay at ChildServ, Lee ran away 17 times. In fact, in the nine days leading up to her death, she ran away six times.

Caitlin’s grandfather, Patrick Ward – a former elected state’s attorney in Lee County – says Caitlin was doing better at a different facility and she should not have been moved to ChildServ.

“She was my girl. She shouldn’t have been released from the only place she was safe,” said Ward. “And we tried and we yelled and we screamed and we begged.”

CBS 2’s investigation uncovered police records showing Naperville police were called to the home 625 times in just two years.

Naperville Police Chief David Dial says the 911 calls doubled in the last two years. The calls included fights, suicide threats, even one for sexual assault; but the vast majority were for runaways like Caitlin.

“I cannot explain why this is permitted to go on by DCFS,” said Dial. “She should have never been in a setting like a group home.”

On the night of her suicide, Lee even made threats to hurt herself after an earlier altercation with another girl in the home. Police say they did not get a call about the earlier altercation, but instead were called after the suicide threats and after she ran away.

“I think we should have been called,” Dial said.

ChildServ also has homes in Downers Grove and Lisle. Police were called to those homes, combined, more than 500 times in the past two years.

The head of ChildServ chose not to comment.

A DCFS official said the performance of these three group homes is not acceptable and the homes are under a quality improvement plan to address problems including how to better handle runaway behavior.

More from Dave Savini
  • the truth hurts

    the responsibilty of this childs death should be divvied up equally. Who’s fault – parents, child, and state. Lets not put all the blame on the state. The child was a ward of the state for a reason. The parents obviously couldn’t control this “troubled” (out of control) youth. The parents failed and passed to state, understandably, the state failed so now the state is 100% at fault? Also, for Chief Dial to incenuate they could have changed the outcome of this case is far fetched. If she was determined to kill herself, she would and could and did. Sad story, but doesn’t seem as though this was going to be prevented. It was inevitable with her track record of threats.

  • There is always more to the story

    Before we pass judgement, know that the family turned to the state for help to keep her safe because she could not be safe in the home. Many children have issues that require professional help they would not receive if the state does not intervene. Mental health issues are not easy to manage for anyone including the person suffering. The facilities are designed to be therapeutic and many of them are and assit the children with the skills they need to cope and deal with their issues. This situaton was not handled appropriately by the facility based on what the facility claimed they could do for this child. Many times children are suicidal because of a variety of different reasons and sometimes it really has nothing to to with what the family did or didn’t do. It takes a great deal of strengthfor a parent to admit they cannot be and do everything for their child. It is very possible if this child was left in the placement where she was safe, she could have received the help she needed and suicide would not have seemed like the best option. This is not about blame. This is a matter of having qualified people to provide the services the facility claims they can provide to the people they serve.

    • lynn

      Very well said. Agree completely.

  • suzzy smith

    Wow! This is very sad and traggic. I do not think this it is fair to put blame on just the state or the home. I guess the “former state’s attorney” could not care for her either as she was not placed with him? Mary says it all by saying she was put in state care becaue she was a danger to herself. Maybe CBS should have spend a couple of days in Caitlin’s hometown and they would have discovered more background about her. How about if the family who created her problems then could not control her? After the fact of something traggic now the family puts blame on the people who were supposed to “fix” what they created. How long had she been running? What were these dangers to herself that brought her into care? If she was so safe at another facility then why was she moved? Even better yet if she was not having anymore dangerous behaviors then why was she not returned home? It is hard when something traggic happens like this and emotions run high. I think the family should look at what part they had in this before they put the whole blame on someone else.

  • Stacey

    She was in a 24/7 monitored facility with around the clock care. SO WHY THE HELL DID THEY MOVE HER TO A GROUP HOME???!!!!

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