Chicago (CBS) — Gov. JB Pritzker said he’s outraged by the system and circumstances that led to the beating death of two-year-old Ja’Hir Gibbons — police say at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend, Dejon Waters.
“There’s an individual and an agency that have made gross mistakes,” Pritzker said.
That individual is the caseworker who visited Ja’Hair’s home two days before he was killed and filed a report saying the boy and his five-year-old brother were safe. Following Ja’Hir’s death, the same caseworker submitted a second report saying he wasn’t present during the visit.
“Here we have people who are responsible being irresponsible, maybe even filing false reports,” Pritzker said.
The case worker came to DCFS through a state contract with OMNI Youth Services, which provides about two dozen employees to the state at a cost of about $3 million a year.
Gov. Pritzker says that contract and others with DCFS are now under review.
A CBS 2 producer caught up with OMNI’s executive director Jay Meyer at their Buffalo Grove headquarters to ask about the death of Ja’Hir.
“Anytime a child dies, it’s a tragedy,” he said.
As for the allegation of false reporting by the case worker, Meyer says the employee has been removed from service.
“If you have a DCFS contract and you have an employee who is being investigated, that employee can no longer see, work with families or children. That’s per DCFS policy,” Meyer said.
Meantime, Gov. Pritzker placed some of the blame for the DCFS mess on his predecessor and the lack of investment in case workers, social services and finding proper leadership for the state agency, which has had 12 directors in 10 years.
Pritzker vows to change that starting with funding for 126 new case workers to reduce the backlog of cases.
The governor says the priority right now is checking on the situation of every single child that’s under DCFS’s care now. How the state will be able to conduct reviews of all DCFS cases is unclear.
CBS 2 requested an on-camera interview with anyone from DCFS who could talk about the case and the case worker, but those requests were not granted.