(CBS) — Two girls were trapped in the state’s foster care system for years because of a clerical error.
2 Investigator Dave Savini reveals how actions by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services kept the sisters from their family.
One of those girls is now 17 years old. She reflects on the milestones she and her younger sister spent isolated from their family.
Her sister says: “I would like cry all the time.”
Bounced from one foster-care home to another, the teens say they were frequently attacked and had to defend themselves on a daily basis.
They were nine and eight when their mom lost custody.
Their aunt, Stephanie Crockett-McLean, says she quickly learned about their situation but couldn’t get them out of the foster-care system because of a clerical error.
She hired lawyers and fought DCFS for six years, all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, to get custody.
Crockett-McLean says the problem began when DCFS failed to contact her brother, the girls’ father. He was unable to care for them, but Crockett-McLean, a school teacher, could.
Instead, the sisters stayed in DCFS custody.
“It was huge waste — of money, of resources,” Crockett-McLean says. “It had a negative impact on their lives.”
The girls’ father was not notified because of clerical mistakes. DCFS added an extra “R” to his name. Then the agency sent notice to the wrong man, the family’s attorney, Aaron Rapier, says.
“Without providing notice to the dad, they took them away from the family and placed them with complete strangers, where they moved around in the foster care system for six years,” he says.
Since the father was not informed, the rest of the family did not know their situation.
The sisters say they were scared. In one home, they were under constant video and audio surveillance, they say.
Foster families threatened to send them to separate homes if they complained about their conditions, the sisters say. The teens say they were emotionally and psychologically abused and were told nobody wanted them.
“I felt like nobody actually did want me,” one of the teen says.
The family lawyer is suing a private contractor that DCFS hired to manage the foster care these girls received.
Citing pending litigation, DCFS and its contractor both declined to comment on the mistakes allegedly made in this case.