Skip navigation

Category Archives: Illinois Child Protective Services

Petition for Shavon’s law to hold CPS workers liable for failure to protect

When Shavon Miles passed out in front of her Chicago area home on August 6, 2007 her mother and step-father did not react the way that normal parents would have.

Instead of seeking immediate medical attention for Shavon, they allegedly accused her of faking a seizure and dragged her into her home where Shavon was then beaten to death with an electrical cord and wooden 2×4 until, in the words of the Chi Town daily news, “the wood was stained red with the child’s blood.”

Caseworker who neglected her children investigates child neglect for state

By Patrick Yeagle


The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services continues to employ at least one caseworker found to have neglected her own foster children. Administrative rules calling for a review of the employee’s license to handle cases have apparently not been enforced.

In September 2008, Linda C. Jones of Springfield, an 11-year DCFS child welfare specialist and state-licensed foster care provider, was found by DCFS to have neglected three of the foster children in her care. As a caseworker, Jones investigates and evaluates accusations of child abuse and neglect against others.

The department’s investigation of Jones revealed that she regularly used corporal punishment as discipline with each of her children. Defined in court documents as “any type of physical punishment, discipline, or retaliation inflicted on any part of the body of the child,” corporal punishment is forbidden as a means of discipline for foster parents under DCFS rules.

Although the investigation found that none of the children in Jones’ care were seriously harmed and no criminal charges were filed against Jones, the investigation found Jones put the children “in an environment injurious to their health and welfare.”

The department decided to remove one of the children from Jones’ home, though the other two foster children remain under her care, according to court documents.

The Illinois comptroller’s office, which handles payment of state workers, confirmed that Jones continues to work at DCFS, more than a year after the department found her to have neglected the children.

The Illinois Administrative Code requires caseworkers to be licensed by the Direct Service Child Welfare Employee Licensing Board. Anyone with a finding of abuse or neglect against them – such as Jones – is ineligible to receive a license. Once an individual is licensed, however, the board is supposed to review such cases and decide whether to revoke the license.

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said he could not reveal whether DCFS or the licensing board have taken any action in the Jones case because of privacy rules. Disciplinary measures taken by DCFS and the actions of the licensing board are confidential, Marlowe pointed out.

But a DCFS employee who asked not to be identified said the licensing board has yet to review Jones’ case. DCFS has reassigned Jones to a desk job where she no longer deals directly with children, the employee said.

“The ball was dropped in this case,” the employee said. “But it has been picked up, and things are on the right track now.”

The case also raises questions about a DCFS policy allowing caseworkers accused of neglect to stay on the job during their investigation.

When a caseworker is accused of abuse, they are normally put on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into their case, according to DCFS spokesman Jimmy Whitelow. However, caseworkers accused of neglect are usually allowed to continue handling cases during their investigation.

In other words, caseworkers accused of neglect can continue investigating accusations of neglect against others.

Dina Coates Koebler, executive director of The Parent Place in Springfield, declined to comment on the DCFS policy, but said she sees no difference between abuse and neglect when it comes to staffing her DCFS-funded agency.

“In my mind, abuse and neglect are the same thing,” she said. “Either you’re clean or you’re not, and either you can work for us or you can’t.”

Joe Goulet, executive director at the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center, said a volunteer found to have committed child abuse or neglect while working with his agency would be removed.

“We do not hire or accept as volunteers anyone with a finding of abuse or neglect,” Goulet said.
But Marlowe said DCFS must observe union contract rules that govern discipline procedures, making the decision of whether to fire a worker more complex.

“The collective bargaining agreement governs employee discipline and provides for a process of grievances and appeals,” Marlowe said. “The revocation of a license can be grounds for discharge.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at

Toddler’s death a homicide, autopsy finds

September 5, 2009 12:15 PM

The death of a 20-month-old Sauk Village girl at a home in Phoenix earlier this week was ruled a homicide after an autopsy Friday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said this morning that Daneah Cousins, of the 1600 block of East 223rd Street, was in the care of a babysitter when police responded to the Phoenix home.

“Our investigation is against another perpetrator,” said Kendall Marlowe, the spokesman. The woman who was babysitting Cousins is the foster mother of two other children who were removed from her care.

“The children were placed in another foster home, only as a precautionary measure,” he said. “There are no allegations of harm to the foster children.”

Daneah was pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. The medical examiner’s office concluded she died from head injuries caused by blunt trauma due to child abuse.

The girl was found in a home in the 700 block of East 155th Court in Phoenix, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Phoenix police could not be reached for comment.

— Kristen Mack and Andrew L. Wang

Director says changes will improve DCFS,2_1_AU05_DCFS_S1-090905.article


AURORA — The director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services admits that of all the guardians out there, his agency may be the worst of all.

“We’re probably the worst parent possible,” Director Erwin McEwen said at a DCFS town hall meeting at Prisco Community Center in Aurora this week.

McEwen agreed with the 80 people in attendance that caseworkers contracted by DCFS could do a better job. DCFS has been working to correct some of the problems by reducing the amount of private agencies with foster care contracts, from 68 to about 30, McEwen said.

But the director also called upon all parties — birth parents, caseworkers and foster parents — to work together.

McEwen was appointed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2007, after he served as acting director for a year. McEwen called the recent changes signed by Gov. Pat Quinn a total “transformation” for DCFS.

One such change is the new Differential Response program, which allows DCFS to be more flexible about full-out investigations. In cases where the risk to a child is low, but families need help, DCFS will conduct a family assessment rather than an investigation.

The Foster Child Successful Transition into Adulthood Act also calls for DCFS to provide financial support and developmental assistance to children who are coming out of foster care. Also, courts could now make it easier for a foster child’s birth parents to see children older than 13.

During an hourlong open discussion, residents were not shy to talk about the department’s so-called faults, from caseworkers’ bias, sloppy investigations and a lack of dialogue.

“Does DCFS have to stay like this?” McEwen asked. “If you don’t get involved, it will. We can transform the system, and we have a unique opportunity right now to do that.”

Aurora resident Mason Bates told DCFS officials that he hopes to never work with them again. Four years ago, he adopted three of his cousins, but the process took eight years. When he adopted the youngest cousin at birth, six caseworkers were assigned over a six-month period.

“Agencies are on one page and DCFS are on another page,” he said.

Marquerite Blitch, of Aurora, demanded that caseworkers remain objective when granting adoptions. Years after she adopted her grandchild, Blitch sought custody of another grandchild. A caseworker told her she should’ve never received custody of the first child “because of something I did 20 years ago.”

The changes, Blitch said, “would work if caseworkers would team up with these families and support them instead of working against them.”

The statistics regarding children in care according to race also alarmed those in attendance. According to 2007 data, while black children make up 7 percent of Kane County’s youth population, blacks account for about 47 percent of children in the care of DCFS.

For the northern region of DCFS, which includes 17 counties, Kane County ranks fourth for the amount of children in care with DCFS, with about 251 out of 2,312 children in the region, according to 2007 data.



Governor Quinn Signs Child Welfare Reform Laws


Wednesday, 26 August 2009

CHICAGO–(ENEWPSF)–August 25, 2009.

Governor Pat Quinn today signed a series of bills that enhance and improve child welfare services in Illinois.

Together, these bills enable the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to better support families in need, strengthen relationships between parents and children, and build better futures for youth transitioning from state care to adult independence.

“We best protect children when we support and strengthen families,” said Governor Quinn. “These important bills begin a new era of child welfare in Illinois, where we reach out to families to provide a helping hand before a crisis occurs, and help each child in our care achieve their dreams.”

The Differential Response Program Act (SB 807), sponsored by Rep. Mary E. Flowers (D-Chicago) and Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), allows DCFS to take a more flexible, supportive approach to helping families in need. In cases where a family is in need of help but the risk of harm to children is low, DCFS will be authorized to conduct a less disruptive family assessment, rather than a formal departmental investigation.

The Department can then tailor additional, individualized services to support the family and protect the children. The bill is effective January 1, 2010.

“This legislation brings us closer to the day when families voluntarily turn to DCFS for help in raising their children safely and successfully,” said DCFS Director Erwin McEwen. “When DCFS is seen as a resource for positive change, children and families win.”

The Foster Child Successful Transition into Adulthood Act (HB 4054), sponsored by Sen. Hunter and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), allows emancipated youth who are still under the age of 21 to receive assistance from DCFS.

Research has shown that young adults coming out of foster care have better outcomes when they continue to receive state support during their transition to adult independence.

DCFS programs for 18 to 21 year olds reduce the incidence of homelessness and incarceration, and increase achievement in education and employment, also saving taxpayers further expense in the future. In addition, it assigns a case manager to each eligible youth to develop a personal development plan to increase their self-sufficiency skills. The bill is effective January 1, 2010.

The DCFS Service Plans Improvement and Foster Permanency Changes Act (HB 529) allows the court and DCFS to review children who are age 13 and over to determine whether the parents whose rights have been terminated can be restored.

Reinstatement will not automatically return a child to the custody of the parent, but will allow the court to oversee services and visitation, helping the child understand and manage relationships with their biological family.

The Act recognizes the importance of lifelong bonds between parents and child, and allows the child welfare system to work with biological parents toward the child’s best interests, even in cases where placement of a child with the parent is not possible. The bill, sponsored by Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago) and Rep. Flowers, is effective immediately.

“We are honored that Governor Quinn chose SOS Children’s Villages Illinois as the site to sign these important pieces of legislation. These bills will continue Illinois’ proud tradition of leading the nation in providing the highest quality services to transform children’s lives.” Tim McCormick, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois.

Death of 11-month-old was caused by child abuse


CHICAGO (STNG) — An 11-month-old girl in the Altgeld Gardens area died from multiple injuries resulting from child abuse and her death was a homicide, a Tuesday autopsy determined.

DaJae Guy of E. 132nd St. was pronounced dead at Children’s Memorial Hospital at 3:30 p.m. Monday, according to a Cook County Medical Examiner’s office spokesman.

DaJae possibly suffered broken ribs and head trauma, according to the spokesman. An autopsy Tuesday showed she died from multiple injuries and blunt-force trauma resulting from child abuse, according to a report from the medical examiner’s office.

Sometime Saturday afternoon or evening, the baby was taken from the home of her mother’s boyfriend at 325 E. 132nd St. to Children’s Memorial, according to police News Affairs Officer Ronald Gaines.

Children’s Memorial alerted Chicago Police, who initiated an investigation at the boyfriend’s residence to see whether abuse was involved.

Gaines said Tuesday that several people were being questioned as part of the investigation, but as of about 2 p.m. no charges had been filed.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the agency is investigating abuse allegations against the boyfriend of the baby’s mother.

The suspected abuser had been investigated for abuse in 2007 involving a different family, Marlowe said. The abuse allegations in 2007 were proven true, he said.

Calumet Area detectives are investigating.


Allegation of abuse investigated in death of 5-month-old


Autopsy results were inconclusive Saturday for a 5-month-old South Side girl whose death is under investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services.

Danielle Ragan, of 934 W. 29th St., was pronounced dead at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County at 7:52 a.m. Friday, a spokesman for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said.

A Saturday autopsy was inconclusive, pending further studies, the medical examiner’s office said.

Police said the baby’s father took the unresponsive child to Stroger Hospital early Friday, when she was pronounced dead. No arrests have been made in the death, which was originally classified as a “death investigation.”

“DCFS is investigating an allegation of death by abuse against the father in this family,” department spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.

They also had a pending investigation against Ragan’s mother and father based on a report they received June 30, Marlowe said. No other children lived in the family’s home, and the nature of the alleged abuse was not known.

Wentworth Area detectives are investigating.


Death of child, 4, under investigation

By Tara Fasol-Chambers, The Southern

Friday, June 26, 2009 11:35 PM CDT


State and local officials are investigating the Monday death of a 4-year-old Shawneetown girl.


Jessika Rena James died about 4:40 p.m. Monday at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis from unspecified injuries suffered during the weekend.

Illinois State Police and Eldorado Police Department launched an investigation in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

DCFS Spokesperson Kendall Marlowe said an abuse investigation continues. Marlowe said DCFS has provided services to the family before after finding previous reports of problem in the home substantiated.

Jessika is the daughter of Brandi James of Eldorado and Eli Nipper of Harrisburg. Obituary information lists one brother for Jessika, although officials said no other children were living in the home at the time of the child’s death.

Services will be Saturday, June 27 at 2 p.m. at the Cox and Son Funeral Home in Shawneetown. Visitation will be Saturday at 11 a.m.


Failing Kalab | Chapter 5 – Dealing with the fallout


Kalab Lay’s death has sparked dialogue, but is it enough?


Kalab Lay
Kalab Lay


By Kate Braser, Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 12:08 a.m.

EVANSVILLE — He was just a little boy, an innocent with no agenda, who inadvertently became a symbol of flaws within the system responsible for keeping children safe.

His parents’ choices and circumstances, with consequences both painful and enduring, marked Kalab Lay before he was born, an unheeded warning of the marks his 3-year-old body would take to the grave.

Addiction, crime, violence, poverty, neglect and harsh punishment were Kalab’s unfortunate inheritance, one for which he paid a dear and devastating price.

“I don’t think there’s been a child that’s died in our community that’s touched a nerve more than this child,” said Rep. Dennis Avery, D-Evansville, a longtime champion of children’s issues and transparency in the system designed to prevent maltreatment of the state’s youngest citizens.

Dysfunction simmering for decades in Kalab’s family finally erupted within a system that had numerous opportunities, but ultimately failed, to keep him safe from harm.

“Kalab opened many doors to possibilities so that children do not have to endure what he had to endure. The question is how many people are willing to walk through the doors that he has opened,” said Melanie Doty of the WE CARE (Wholeness, Empowerment, Community, Awareness, Recognition and Education) project that supported the victims’ rights bill, authored by Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, and signed into law in May.

“It’s just a matter of when are people going to walk through those doors and do what needs to be done to protect our children,” said Doty.

Amanda Brooks, Kalab’s mother, was abused and neglected as a child. Kalab’s father, Terry Lay, was a juvenile delinquent who matured into a felon with a lengthy criminal history including episodes of violence.

The volatile combination of Brooks, 34, and Lay, 41, ultimately proved deadly. Three months into a court-ordered visit with his parents in the family’s home at Eastbrook Mobile Home Park, Kalab died of blunt-force trauma. Both he and his twin sister, Kayla, had been brutally beaten, reportedly by their parents, over a period of days.

“I think it is absolutely clear that the biggest problem was the judge ignored recommendations from the people close to the case,” Avery said.

Embracing the memory of a boy they never knew, outraged individuals in the community came together, crying out for justice, holding vigil, raising funds for Kalab’s headstone, promoting awareness of abuse and neglect and calling for legislative change.

“There were a number of incidences where children suffered unfortunate tragedies as a result of abuse and neglect,” said Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, who co-authored the bill known as Kalab’s Law with Riecken.

The bill was referred to but did not receive reading in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill calls for a registry of those convicted of child-selling, neglect of a dependent or battery upon a child.

Indiana has not released its 2008 data, but in 2007, 36 Hoosier children died as a result of maltreatment by caregivers. In Illinois fiscal year 2008, 88 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. The most recent data available from Kentucky is from 2005, when abuse or neglect took the lives of 41 children.

“It’s all the Kalab Lays throughout the state that cause legislation like this to be drafted …” Crouch said.

Although 14 months have passed since Kalab was killed, his legacy — including demand for transparency and accountability in child protective services — has endured even as new tragedies have moved into the headlines.

At best, Kalab’s story will promote successful outcomes within the system that failed in its duty to protect him and keep him safe.

“In my opinion, it brought to light to everyone, especially in this community, how important it is to report any child abuse and neglect,” said Suzanne Draper, executive director of Vanderburgh County CASA (the Court Appointed Special Advocate program).

The amount of information released about Kalab’s life and death has fueled the community’s passion, Doty said.

The Courier & Press obtained a copy of Kalab’s Indiana Department of Child Services death investigation file through legislation championed by Avery in 2004. The law requires disclosure of DCS investigations into the death or near-death of a child as a result of abuse, abandonment or neglect.

In the first three months of this year alone, three children ages 16 months and younger have died, reportedly as a result of action or inaction by parents or stepparents.

“I just don’t think it’s right using him as a poster child,” said Kalab’s uncle and Brooks’ brother, Patrick Lawrence. Ongoing media coverage and the community’s focus on Kalab have been difficult on Kalab’s surviving half brothers, who are in their teens, said Lawrence.

Still, it is Kalab who wears the mantle of child welfare reform.

Kalab was just a little boy who liked jelly beans and Spider-Man, according to his obituary; a little boy who enjoyed cartoons and playing with his twin, according to the Indiana DCS investigation; a little boy described as holding “big secrets” by former baby sitter Heidi Frazure; and a little boy who died of traumatic brain injuries from repeated blows to the head, according to Vanderburgh County Coroner Annie Groves.

He was a little boy who never had the chance to blow out candles on his fourth birthday cake or pick out school supplies for the first day of kindergarten.

He was just a little boy, beaten, neglected and allowed to die by the people who were supposed to love him most.

In December, Brooks pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent resulting in death in connection with Kalab’s death and felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than 14 years of age related to the physical abuse Kayla suffered.

The plea agreement includes a sentencing recommendation of 20 years on the battery count and 35 years on the count of neglect to be served concurrently in the Indiana Department of Correction.

It also stipulates Brooks must testify “completely and truthfully” against Lay if called upon to do so. Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge Robert Pigman is waiting to impose a sentence until Brooks has cooperated fully with law enforcement and testified against the man she filed for divorce from in February.

If the judge accepts the plea agreement, charges of murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury and battery resulting in bodily injury will be dismissed.

Authorities believe Brooks and Lay physically abused the twins, but Lay is responsible for Kalab’s fatal injuries.

Lay is charged with murder, neglect of a dependent resulting in death and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury and is scheduled to stand trial in September in Jeffersonville, Ind.

If convicted in Clark County Circuit Court, where the case was moved because of pretrial publicity, the jury also could deem Lay to be a habitual offender, which could add as many as 30 years to his sentence.

According to Brooks’ public defender, she was sexually, physically and mentally abused by men for more than 20 years. Speaking on the day of her plea, Evansville attorney Russ Woodson said evidence shows abuse continued after Brooks married Lay.

As a result of her background, Woodson said he did not think Brooks was capable of being a good mother. Avery concurs, saying child abuse is a learned behavior passed from one generation to the next.

That doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“Being a product of generational abuse is no excuse, because you are a grown-up,” Doty said. “You know you have choices and it is up to you to make the choices that are best for your child and yourself.”

Information in Kalab’s file indicating Brooks faced a 1997 charge of child neglect in Delaware County, Ind., is incorrect, Lawrence said. The Delaware County Clerk’s Office could not confirm the charge.

Lay, however, pleaded guilty in 1996 to felony charges of resisting law enforcement and neglect of a dependent after being accused of fleeing Evansville police while “driving at an excessively high rate of speed, running stop signs and weaving in and out of traffic” with his 2-year-old and a 3-year-old in the car, according to court records.

He was sentenced to three years in the Indiana Department of Correction. The children’s mother, Roselyn Stanton, was facing jail time on a separate matter and there reportedly was no one to care for the children, Lay told Illinois Department of Children and Family Services during a 2007 assessment. The couple relinquished their parental rights, and the boy and girl were adopted.

Lay has said there was “no doubt in his mind” Brooks caused Kalab’s injuries, and told investigators he had no knowledge of the injuries Kayla suffered.

Lawrence said his sister told him Lay delivered the fatal beating four days before Kalab’s hospitalization on March 31, 2008.

“My theory is that Amanda knew something had happened, OK? Something serious had happened. I think Amanda was scared. I think Amanda knew that once she took that baby to the hospital, here it goes all over again. They’re going to come yank up all the kids. Here we go all over again, domino effect,” Lawrence said.

“I believe Amanda was hoping everything was going to be all right and that (Kalab) would pull through. The worst-case scenario happened, you know what I mean? He died.”

Kalab was seen last by an Illinois caseworker March 18, when Reagan Nelson of Lutheran Social Services informed the family she would be out of the office until March 31.

On April 1, Brooks’ mother, Patricia Bivens, called Nelson at 8:45 a.m.: “(Bivens) was crying and screaming and telling (Nelson) how sorry she was. She did not know what was going on in the home,” according to the caseworker’s notes.

Bivens said Brooks had told her Kalab was brain dead, at which point Nelson became “speechless.”

Both Brooks and Lay already were incarcerated at the Vanderburgh County Jail as Kalab remained on life support in preparation for organ procurement April 2.

His heart went to a 23-month-old girl in Wisconsin; his liver to a 1-year-old girl in Ohio; and both kidneys to a 75-year-old Ohio woman, according to Rick Posson, Indiana Organ Procurement spokesman.

When Kalab was hospitalized, one of Brooks’ sons from her first marriage was living with the family at 2415 Long Point Drive. His father picked him up. Indiana DCS took custody of Kayla; Brooks’ nearly 2-year-old daughter, whom Lay had not fathered; and the couple’s 1-month-old son.

Bivens sought custody of the surviving Lay children: the older two, still in their Illinois foster home; Kayla, who was returned to her Illinois foster home; and the two younger children, who were placed in Vanderburgh County foster care.

Her effort was unsuccessful, turned down because of a “significant history” with child welfare services that began with allegations of abuse and neglect of her own children in the mid-1970s, according to an Indiana DCS report.

Lawrence said he believes Brooks has relinquished her parental rights to the five surviving children she had during her relationship with Lay. He does not know if Lay has relinquished his parental rights.

However, Lawrence said no one in Brooks’ family, including her two oldest sons, is being allowed to visit any of the children who are wards of Indiana or Illinois.

“I sit back and cry sometimes about that. I really do,” Lawrence said. “I loved them all.”

Illinois DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said when children are in the system, sibling visitation is a high priority. Maintaining sibling contact is of critical importance to children, he said, and DCFS operates under a mandate requiring good faith efforts to facilitate visitation for siblings and half siblings not placed together or not in the system.

“Once a child is adopted, the adoptive parents have sole legal authority to make decisions about who a child sees and when, just like any other legal parent,” Marlowe said.

In Indiana, sibling visitation occurs at the discretion of the presiding juvenile judge, said Indiana DCS spokeswoman Ann Houseworth.

The last official word on the status of the three children in Illinois came from Saline County (Ill.) State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw, who said the process for termination of parental rights is on hold.

Although Saline County Circuit Court Judge Todd Lambert was voted out of office by a narrow margin in November, he was appointed in January to serve as an associate judge. Henshaw said Lambert has recused himself from the Lay children’s proceedings.

In the weeks after Kalab’s death, Vanderburgh Juvenile Court Judge Brett Niemeier attempted to provide insight into the workings of the court and DCS by granting media access to the proceedings of the two youngest children in the Brooks-Lay case, who were — and still may be — in local foster care.

Niemeier also cited specific Indiana Code stating a juvenile judge may grant “any person having a legitimate interest in the work of the court or in a particular case access to the court’s legal records.”

In June 2008, the Indiana Court of Appeals granted a motion for a temporary stay filed by Brooks’ attorney, effectively barring the media from attending the custody proceedings. The court later ruled Niemeier erred in releasing CHINS (children-in-need of services) records related to Kalab’s siblings.

“Openness and transparency better serve children,” said Amy Harfeld, executive director of First Star, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that focuses on improving the lives of children victimized by abuse and neglect.

Both Harfeld and Avery said Indiana law gives juvenile court judges the authority to open or close proceedings.

“More often than not, when decisions are made to try to keep proceedings a secret, the state is more interested in protecting the identity of their employees who may have erred than they are other children that may be at risk after a fatality like this,” Harfeld said.

In April 2008, First Star and the University of San Diego School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute released a report showing only a handful of states were in compliance with federal requirements for public disclosure of the deaths and near-deaths of abused and neglected children.

According to the report, a majority of states have policies giving confidentiality priority over children’s welfare while preventing scrutiny that could lead to systemic reform.

The report also issued each state a letter grade based on its laws and policies related to disclosure of child death and near-death information. Only two states, Nevada and New Hampshire, earned an “A.” Indiana was among four states to receive an “A-” grade.

Twenty-eight states got a “C+” or lower, and 10 flunked. Illinois earned a “B+” and Kentucky a “C-” grade.

In this year’s general assembly, Avery said he worked to clarify Indiana’s disclosure laws to advance the state’s grade to an “A.” The bill, which passed, provides more specificity in terms of what information should be released.

According to Kalab’s file, the Lay twins and their two older siblings all had developmental delays, and the two living with foster parent Pam Sullens were described as having behaviors that pointed toward abuse. Kalab and Kayla were exposed to methamphetamine, alcohol and cigarette smoke while in the womb.

After Kalab was pronounced brain dead, the twins’ LSSI caseworker arrived in Evansville to return Kayla to Illinois, according to notes written by Nelson and included in Kalab’s file. During the drive, Nelson tried to reassure Kayla that nothing that had happened was her fault.

Standing in a McDonald’s parking lot at 8 p.m., Kayla began crying. She did not want to go with the new foster parent and did not want Nelson to leave her side.

In an effort to comfort her, Nelson gave her a stuffed hippo to keep her company, a kiss and a promise to see her the next day.

Eventually, Kayla was returned to foster parents Michele and Gerald Mitchell, who had cared for Kalab and Kayla since they were removed from their parents’ care at 2 months of age.

The transition from the Brooks-Lay home also proved difficult for the twins’ younger sister, who was placed with the same foster parent as their 1-month-old brother.

“She still wakes up at night screaming and has to be reassured and put back to bed,” the foster mother told Indiana DCS family case manager Amy Brandsasse about one week after the children arrived in her home. “(She) follows her from room to room, and they have to be in the same room.”

As Indiana repeatedly denied Illinois’ request to place the children across the state line in Illinois, Avery said the welfare of the younger children should have been given greater consideration.

“I wonder if those smaller children were abused …” he said. “If those 3-year-olds were at risk, I believe those younger children were at risk.”

Houseworth said statutory requirements for the interstate compact are more rigorous than those of an investigation stemming from a report of abuse or neglect.

The compact, for example, requires an FBI criminal background check while a reported allegation does not.

While the twins still were in Illinois foster care, LSSI called the Indiana child abuse hot line to report that Brooks repeatedly had lied about being pregnant. After her daughter was born in April 2006, Brooks told LSSI the child was her sister-in-law’s and refused to provide access to records regarding the pregnancy and the baby’s medical care.

“LSSI believes it is vital to assess her safety and well-being considering Amanda’s past history,” according to an Illinois DCFS report signed by LSSI caseworker Angela Nalley.

In the hot line call, Nalley reported Brooks, a prior meth user, had four children in Illinois foster care, all of whom were malnourished and in poor physical condition when they entered the system.

When Vanderburgh County DCS investigator Matt Murphy checked on Brooks, she admitted the child was hers. She said she had planned to put the baby up for adoption but changed her mind.

Murphy informed Nalley he was not concerned about the child’s health because Brooks and the baby were living with Brooks’ mother and had appropriate food, according to Illinois DCFS records.

In August 2006, Nalley saw Brooks and Lay after a court date they missed by arriving 30 minutes late. Nalley told the couple the case had passed legal screening, a first step in the adoption process, and Illinois DCFS would be preparing a petition to terminate their parental rights to the four children in state foster care.

One of the primary reasons for Indiana’s repeated denial of interstate compact requests for the twins’ placement was Lay’s extensive criminal history.

“That’s something we should look into. That might be something that would be valuable information for the (Indiana) DCS caseworker that’s doing the investigation,” Avery said. “It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have that information.”

While Kalab and Kayla were in Illinois foster care, three LSSI child welfare specialists working on behalf of Illinois DCFS recommended the court change its goal from returning them home to substitute care pending termination of parental rights.

The foster parents the four Lay children were placed with had indicated interest in adoption. Eight records from Kalab’s file show from July 2005 to November 2007 LSSI/DCFS recommendations to the court almost were split equally among returning the children to their biological parents, terminating parental rights and preparing the case for legal screening, a step in the adoption process.

“The whole system in itself is very complex and there’s a lot that goes into these types of cases and the end result is horrific …” said Draper, executive director of Vanderburgh County’s CASA. “It’s a more complex issue with two states involved.”

The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children has been in place for decades, said Anita Light, director of Children and Family Services at the American Public Human Services Association in Washington, D.C. The Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is an affiliate of that association.

Under the ICPC, the association of administrators has the authority to advance regulations related to more effective application of the compact’s terms as well as to mediate disputes potentially arising between states.

When 35 states have ratified a new version of the ICPC, it will take effect. So far, nine states — including Indiana — have ratified. ICPC program manager in the Children and Family Services Department Carla Fults said Kentucky has introduced the legislation, and Illinois has attempted to move toward ratification but the legislation has not passed.

Both Light and Fults declined to discuss the specifics of the Brooks-Lay case. However, Fults did say the existing ICPC includes language outlining violations, but the determination of whether a violation of the compact has occurred is left to individual states.

Enforcement authority, data collection, electronic usage, constitutionality, judicial authority and private versus independent adoption were among the issues evaluated in preparing the new ICPC, Fults said.

Providing more guidance to help states better understand what’s expected and what can be resolved from one state to another are among the reasons for the development of the new ICPC, Light said.

The new compact would provide greater uniformity in application but not complete uniformity.

“States are very much in the business of accountability and examining what it is they’re doing, where improvements need to be made and a real objective analysis of the kinds of resources that are needed to provide those services to children and families,” Light said.

Indiana denied Illinois’ third request for an interstate compact in March 2008 after the twins were placed with their parents.

“The interstate compact as currently written requires cooperation between states toward the protection of children and has achieved that goal in thousands of cases over the years,” Marlowe said.

“The compact only succeeds … when agencies, courts and attorneys fully understand and implement its requirements.”

Illinois and Indiana authorities began exploring another agreement in support of the compact and to better coordinate the work of agencies, courts and attorneys in both states after Kalab’s death, Marlowe said.

“In our day-to-day practice, we have increased scrutiny and follow-up on cases that were denied under the compact to ensure that they are handled properly,” Marlowe said.

In addition to Lay’s criminal history, an interstate compact was denied because of both parents’ convictions on methamphetamine-related charges and lack of bonding between the twins and their parents.

Vanderburgh County DCS informed Illinois DCFS the twins should be removed from the Evansville home in a letter dated March 14, 2008 — 18 days before Kalab died.

“Due to the fact it was a judicial order that sent the children here, we were unable to take any action,” Houseworth said.

If the same situation were to arise today, with a “sending” state ignoring denial by Indiana as the “receiving” state, Avery said changes in state law would allow Indiana to take the sending state to court.

Indiana DCS officials have said they still were waiting for Illinois to remove the children from the home when Kalab died.

If Indiana can be faulted for anything in the case, Avery said, it would be an unwillingness to get involved.

“Our unwillingness was based on sound reasoning,” he said. “The children shouldn’t have been in that family. … This judge pretty much ignored the law.”

Initially, Brooks and Lay indicated they would like the surviving children to be placed with Brooks’ mother. However, in the divorce documents Brooks filed, she declined the opportunity to recommend someone to assume custody of the children.

Susan Tielking, former Indiana DCS spokeswoman, said the case caused state officials to reconsider policies for supervision of children who are placed in a home where an interstate compact was denied.

“Every year it seems like we do a little bit more but the only way we can know about those problems is if someone brings them to our attention,” Avery said. “It seems like children keep dying and it should be of concern to us all. Is there something else we could be doing?”



Failing Kalab | Reunification

By Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:24 p.m.

June 2005

Brooks released from Lincoln Correctional Facility, where she had completed a parenting program and drug counseling through the Gateway program.

November 2005

Brooks completed a Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center mental health assessment. No recommendation for counseling.

January 2006

Brooks completed 10 relapse-prevention groups.

Brooks completed substance abuse evaluation; recommended completion of 10 relapse-prevention groups.

February 2006

Brooks completed a Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center substance abuse treatment program.

July 2006

Lay released from Jacksonville Correctional Facility, where he completed Gateway substance abuse treatment.

September 2006

Lay received mental health assessment; recommendation to continue random drug testing and follow up with parole officer.

Lay completed substance abuse assessment at Deaconess Cross Pointe with recommendation for continued urine screening.

November 2006

Brooks attended appointment with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.; second session scheduled.

December 2006

Brooks, because of illness, canceled second appointment with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

January 2007

Lay was scheduled to begin parenting classes at Lampion Center.

February 2007

Brooks completed psychological evaluation by psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

March 2007

Lay completed parenting and behavior management programs.

July 2007

Lay missed an appointment for evaluation with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

October 2007

Lay attended appointment for evaluation with psychologist Michael Althoff in Carbondale, Ill.

Lay completed psychological evaluation by psychologist Marilyn Marks-Frey at Paris Community Hospital in Paris, Ill.

January 2008

Brooks appointment for family counseling at the Lampion Center rescheduled because of weather.

Sources: Indiana Department of Child Services investigation of Kalab Lay’s death, court documents, court proceedings, law enforcement records




Failing Kalab | Family history


By Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:22 p.m.


Failing Kalab | Court proceedings


By Libby Keeling

Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:19 p.m.








Ill. child welfare reveals history of complaints before boy’s death

By Len Wells

Posted June 7, 2009 at 12:24 a.m.

GRAYVILLE, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services confirmed this week it had received four hot line reports since 2007 concerning the possible abuse or neglect of a 5-year-old Grayville boy who died there last Tuesday.

Jason Lee Hoy

Jason Lee Hoy

Jason Lee Hoy, a pre-kindergarten student, was pronounced dead upon arrival about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday at the emergency room of Wabash General Hospital in Mount Carmel, Ill.

Investigators still don’t know for sure what caused his death.

While the cause of death remains unclear, a picture is beginning to develop that includes allegations of neglect or abuse that had been reported to child welfare authorities over a three-year period.

 “DCFS investigated four complaints about the treatment of Jason,” Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said. “Three of them were determined to be unfounded. Complaints were received in 2007, 2008 and 2009.”

A fourth complaint was substantiated by investigators in January 2008.

That complaint was filed by a local physician who became concerned when Jason’s parents missed a scheduled doctor’s appointment for an unspecified illness or injury.

In an unspecified time period before Jason’s death, Jason had been referred to DCFS for protective services because of the prior complaints.

“Jason was not taken into protective custody at that time,” Marlowe said.

DCFS checking

Since Jason’s death, the department has launched its own investigation, including checks on the actions of department caseworkers in the weeks and months leading up to the child’s death.

“At the time of Jason’s death, there were two other children living in the household, and those two children have been removed and placed into the custody of other family members,” Marlowe said. “We are cooperating fully with the Illinois State Police in their investigation.”

Jason lived in a housing unit apartment at 420 N. Martin Street in Grayville with his mother, Crystal (Hoy) Nash; his stepfather, Josh Nash; sister, Violet Hoy; and brother, Isaiah Nash.

An autopsy was performed on Jason’s remains Tuesday evening, with no clear cause of death determined. Wabash County Coroner Larry Hodgson said it will take up to two weeks before toxicology reports are completed and turned over to investigators.

Jason was buried Friday at the Bruce Chapel Cemetery near Carmi, Ill.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 157 other followers

%d bloggers like this: