Beverly “B.J.” Walker | LinkedIn photo

Rauner names former Edgar, Daley aide Beverly Walker new DCFS chief

SHARE Rauner names former Edgar, Daley aide Beverly Walker new DCFS chief
SHARE Rauner names former Edgar, Daley aide Beverly Walker new DCFS chief

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Friday named Beverly “B.J.” Walker the new head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, weeks after the agency’s head resigned amid an uproar over the Semaj Crosby tragedy.

George Sheldon resigned on May 31. After weeks of mulling his future, Sheldon accepted a job at a nonprofit child-welfare organization in his home state of Florida.

Walker served as commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Human Resources from 2004 to 2011, where she was responsible for that state’s human services programs, including child-protection service care and child support, according to Rauner’s administration.

She also once worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services and as an assistant to the governor for human services reform under former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar. Walker also worked under former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley as Deputy Chief of Staff for Human Infrastructure.

A DCFS spokeswoman referred questions to the governor’s office, which did not make Walker available for an interview Friday.

Her appointment comes during a period of tumult within the state’s child welfare agency.

In late May, DCFS released a 22-page report detailing the agency’s shortcomings in handling the Crosby case. DCFS opened 11 child endangerment investigations into the family in the year before the toddler was found dead. Most were ruled unfounded based on a lack of evidence or remain pending still.

Semaj’s paternal grandmother, aunt and her two children lived in the same 864-square-foot home as Semaj, her three siblings and her mother, Sheri Gordon.

DCFS concluded that report with a list of “Lessons Learned and Recommendations.”

Among those recommendations was a review of the way the agency documents so-called unfounded allegations against caregivers. An unfounded allegation is a child-abuse or -neglect accusation that DCFS cannot substantiate after an investigation.

“Because reports were unfounded, a new [State Central Registry] number was given with each new report,” the agency wrote. “This process does not lend itself to linking and understanding history and trends.”

Sheldon told the Sun-Times that communication between different state agencies and departments would do much to improve the agency’s effectiveness.

“I think it’s very important to work collaboratively with other agencies’ heads — Human Services, especially,” Sheldon said. “DCFS will never be able to do it by itself.”

Seventeen-month-old Semaj was found deadunder a couchin the house about midnight April 26. The day before, DCFS had been at the home investigating a child-neglect allegation but saw “no obvious hazards or safety concerns” for Semaj or siblings, state officials said. Semaj, her three siblings and mother all slept in the same bedroom.

About two-and-a-half hours after a visit from DCFS, the toddler disappeared, prompting a massive search of her subdivision near Joliet. A top police official said the house was in “very deplorable” condition, adding that a lawyer for the girl’s mother made them get a search warrant before they entered it and found the girl.

Less than two weeks after Semaj was found dead, the house burned to the ground.Authorities said arsonwas “most likely” the cause. No criminal charges have been filed in the child’s death or the fire.

In January, a supervisor in the Joliet office of DCFS was offering two $100 gift cards and a $50 gift card to the three caseworkers “who closed the most cases in a month.” Sheldon ordered a review of each case opened that month in the Joliet office “just to make sure every single case was closed appropriately.”

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