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Hiring Challenge: Finding The Right Person To Safeguard Children

A caseworker of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services visited a family to make sure two young boys were doing well in a home where there had been several allegations of child abuse and neglect.

The caseworker reported back that both the two-year-old and five-year-old were both safe, according to the agency.

Two days later, the two-year-old was brutally beaten to death. The next day, the worker filed another report, this time stating only the older brother was home at the time of the visit and that the worker never saw the two-year-old there. The caseworker will not have any contact with children or families the agency serves while authorities investigate the conflicting reports.

The mother of the child and her boyfriend are both facing felony charges. The boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder after admitting he got angry at the boy and he beat him with his hands and a rolled-up shirt until the child "began foaming at the mouth," according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors also said there had been suspicions about how the children have been treated by the couple for more than a year.

One year ago, a neighbor saw the two-year-old limping after a loud fight in his home. In August, a physician reported a bite on the boy's stomach and other bruising, but the mother blamed the injuries on day care.

In October, another DCFS worker was assigned to the family after the agency received a hotline complaint about possible abuse in the home.

Earlier, in March, the boys' grandparents visited them and noticed bruises on the two-year-old's face and arms, according to prosecutors.

With regard to the conflicting reports of the caseworker, the agency did not say which report it believes to be true. However, prosecutors point out that the abuse of the victim had been going on for some time while DCFS had been supposedly monitoring the family.

Prosecutors say the medical examiner had "discovered fractures in various stages of healing to the ribs." A wrist fracture was also found in addition to several lacerations to the liver and a contusion to one of the boy's lungs. The injuries found would have been caused by significant blunt-force trauma, according to the medical examiner.

When the mother was arrested, police found an iPad that indicated recent searches for ways to hide bruises. Rosemary Sobol and Megan Crepeau "DCFS investigating caseworker who said 2-year-old was safe, days before boy was beaten to death" www.chicagotribune.com (Mar. 22, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

By definition, a caseworker or social worker is "an investigator, especially of a social agency, who aids disadvantaged individuals or families chiefly by analysis of their problems and through personal counseling."

Hiring caseworkers or anyone for a job safeguarding children must not be taken lightly. When hiring anyone to care for children, what should you look for to protect children?

  • Experience with children in similar situations: Always check references through personal conversations to verify how the applicant interacts with children.
  • Training: Has the candidate been trained in child abuse prevention and first aid? Is that training current?
  • A clean background check: Although some child abusers have no criminal record, many do, and you must check all available national, state, and local sources of information.
  • Knowledge of boundaries: Does the candidate understand how to maintain boundaries in working with children?
  • Do past employers state that the candidate is safe with children?
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