CHICAGO (CBS) — A Department of Children and Family Services worker and supervisor who kept A.J. Freund with his parents despite repeated warning signs are facing rare criminal charges, and it was under their care that the 5-year-old was killed last year. One of those case workers still sits on the McHenry County Board.
Friday night the chairman of the board was calling on fellow board member Carlos Acosta, the caseworker assigned to A.J., to resign.
It has been nearly a year and a half since A.J.’s body was found in a shallow grave, six months since the home where his parents were accused of beating him to death was torn down, and two months since A.J.’s mother was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Acosta, 54, and Andrew Polovin, 48, are charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one count of reckless conduct. Both former DCFS employees were accused of failing to properly investigate allegations concerning A.J.’s treatment, despite concerns raised by police and others.
Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert said in Illinois this move is unprecedented, at least in recent memory.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and every now and then there’s something about charges being contemplating in different places, but it’s very unusual,” he said.
DCFS declined to comment on the charges Friday.
“It sends the message to current case workers that you have to do your job,” Golbert said.
But he is on the fence about whether it is a good policy.
“I worry we are going to deter good people, smart people from entering child welfare if they know that if they make mistakes and something really bad happens that they could go to jail,” he said.
Acosta has declined several CBS 2 requests for an on-camera interview.
Even while out on bond, he still sits on the McHenry County Board‚ where his term wont expire until 2022. He is holding down the job despite thousands of public calls for his resignation and a call from County Board Chairman Jack Franks Friday. Franks said that if the public had the power to remove him, “I have no doubt that the consensus would be to do so.”
McHenry Co. Board Chairman calling for Carlos Acosta’s resignation.
— Megan Hickey (@MeganHickeyTV) September 11, 2020
Neither the county board members nor the voters have the ability to remove Acosta from the office before his term is up. Both Acosta and Polovin were released on $20,000 bonds.
It is unclear whether the criminal charges will stick because there is not a lot of case law on this. There is one case of social workers in Los Angeles being criminally charged in the torture and murder of an 8-year-old there, but those charges were eventually thrown out on appeal.