(CBS) – Even though a Joliet Township toddler was observed living in squalid conditions shortly before she died last week, the head of Illinois’ child-welfare agency says that doesn’t mean the state should have removed the girl.
George Sheldon, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, addressed the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
Sheldon says he’s appalled at the death Semaj Crosby, the 16-month-old girl who was reported missing April 25 before police found her the next evening, dead, underneath a couch.
The girl disappeared within two hours of a DCFS worker’s visit.
Local authorities described the conditions inside the home, where squatters lived with Crosby’s family, as deplorable. The residence has since been condemned.
But Sheldon told senators: “An untidy or dirty home doesn’t mean we remove the child, because the child may be loved and cared for – but they may be poor.”
Sheldon said filth alone is not enough to remove children.
“Based on what I have seen – and I’ve seen some of the records and read a significant amount of them — none of the instances in that home warranted removal,” he said.
He says he will consult with the Will County State’s Attorney and wants as much on the open record to prevent something similar from ever happening again.