CHICAGO (CBS) — Two DCFS workers involved in the A.J. Freund case are no longer with the state’s child protection agency.
“Following the heartbreaking death of A.J. Freund, DCFS began a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with A.J.’s family to understand what needs to change to prevent tragedies like this from happening again,” DCFS said in a statement.
“As part of this review, DCFS has taken personnel action regarding Carlos Acosta and Andrew Polovin, the caseworker and supervisor involved in the case. Mr. Acosta and Mr. Polovin are no longer employed by the state. DCFS is continuing to examine the department’s work in this case and will take all necessary action to protect the children and families we serve.”
The 5-year-old was killed in April, and his parents were charged with his murder. AJ’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, has since pleaded guilty.
DCFS had prior contact with the family, but investigators had deemed allegations of abuse unfounded, despite concerns from a doctor and police.
DCFS handling of A.J.’s case has come under intense scrutiny after his death, in light of agency reports that revealed A.J. told a doctor of possible abuse four months before he was killed.
In December 2018, a DCFS investigator deemed neglect allegations against A.J.’s mother unfounded, after a doctor could not pinpoint the cause of a mysterious bruise on the boy’s hip.
Crystal Lake Police had called DCFS after Cunningham had been arrested for driving on a suspended license in 2018, according to Crystal Lake Police Department reports. The officer had visited the family’s home, and noted not only was the house in deplorable condition, but A.J. was running around wearing only a pull-up and sporting a large bruise on his hip.
When a DCFS investigator arrived, A.J. said he suffered the bruise “when the family dog pawed him.” However, after going to the hospital to have the bruise checked, a doctor told the DCFS investigator A.J. claimed “maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” according to a DCFS timeline.
The doctor said he could not determine how A.J. was injured, stating the bruise “could have been caused by a dog, belt or a football,” according to the report.
The investigator released A.J. back into his parents’ custody, but advised his father to stay at home “as a safety precaution.”
The DCFS report also revealed significant discrepancies between the deplorable conditions police had found inside the home, and the conditions the DCFS investigator noted one day later. The investigator ultimately deemed allegations of neglect unfounded, “due to lack of evidence for cuts, welt and bruises allegation.”
The DCFS timeline also revealed that Cunningham was being investigated for her behavior as foster parent, before A.J. was born. In June, 2012, she was accused of abusing prescription drugs and neglecting her foster child.
Four months later, A.J.’s parents allegedly forced him into a cold shower for an extended period of time, and beat him to death. They reported him missing three days later, prompting a weeklong search that led to the discovery of his body wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave about seven miles from the family home in Crystal Lake.