CHICAGO (CBS) — Vigils continued Wednesday for the ten children killed in a house fire in Little Village over the weekend. The surviving family members have not broken their silence since the tragic incident. Several DCFS investigations have surfaced involving all of the families.
Investigators believe the victims, aged 3 months to 16 years, may have been at a sleepover when the fire broke out, with no parental supervision.
Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent out an eight-page background on the families affected by the fire. Three of the four mothers of children who died have prior contact with DCFS.
Officials say Yolanda Ayala, who lost five of her nine children in the blaze, was the subject of 21 prior DCFS investigations, most for inadequate supervision beginning in 2004 with the most recent in March 2018. The DCFS report says most were ruled unfounded.
Sonya Carrillo, who lost her 16-year-old son Victor Mendoza in the fire, also has a lengthy DCFS history from 1996 to 2016. There were at least six prior investigations, most for inadequate supervision.
In two cases, DCFS found credible evidence existed to back the claim.
A DCFS official, however, says none of the individual reports rose to the level of removing the children from their parents.
DCFS says Ayala and Carrillo, along with Leticia Reyes and Pricilla Cobos, are all currently being investigated for neglect because of the fire.
The cause of the fire is still undetermined at this time.
Yolanda Ayala and Sonya Carrillo also did not respond to CBS 2’s calls for comment. There are no mentions of any of the fathers of the children in the reports.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov asked DCFS at what point additional red flags would be raised. DCFS released a statement saying:
“The incident-by-incident approach is typical in child welfare across the country. It’s like going to an emergency room, and even if you go multiple times to the emergency room, they still just treat the emergency and send you on your way.
We are starting to change that and take a more proactive approach now with families, with a particular focus on families with children between birth and 3 years old. We have joined up with DHS, which has programs like WIC, so that we jointly get involved with these family with more coordinated services. We have hired 40 additional caseworkers for what we call Intact families, where the children remain in the home after an investigation, so that a second investigation on that family prompts assignment to a more senior caseworker. We have reduced investigator caseloads, so investigators can spend more time on cases. A lot of cases are very difficult decisions, because the evidence isn’t always clear and the right decision isn’t always obvious. At a different level, Illinois has a shortage of mental health professionals. And a lot of people don’t want us involved in helping them because they see us as simply an agency that takes kids away.”