DCFS must release entire case file on Amaria Osby

Amaria’s mother is accused of killing her on May 24, hours after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was in the home investigating a report of abuse.

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Amaria Osby

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Kudos to David Struett for his excellent coverage of 8-year-old Amaria Osby’s death. Amaria’s mother killed her on May 24, hours after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was in the home investigating a report of abuse.

We now know that DCFS received that report more than two months earlier, on March 23. The next day, DCFS unsuccessfully attempted to visit the home.DCFS then did nothing for the next two months.By then it was too late.

DCFS waited a full week after Amaria’s death to release a timeline disclosing this two-month delay. And DCFS only did so due to dogged reporting by Struett and other journalists.

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Amaria’s case is tragic. Her mother, Andreal Hagler, admitted to killing Amaria after taking PCP. Hagler then attempted suicide by drinking bleach and putting a bag over her head.

DCFS regulations mandate that an investigator see the child within 24 hours of a report of abuse or neglect. DCFS is obligated to keep trying to see the child at least once every day, including weekends and holidays, until it is successful. After five days, a supervisory review is required.

Noneof these mandates happened in Amaria’s case.

This case cried out for intensive drug and mental health services for Hagler and, at a minimum, a protective plan for Amaria. If this was done in March, the outcome for Amaria might have been very different.

DCFS’ lack of transparency is disturbing.DCFS is a public agency, responsible for the safety of our children. DCFS is arguably the most important, and most troubled, agency in state government.

In withholding information for a week, DCFS cited confidentiality rules. This can only be described as cynical and disingenuous. There’s no longer any confidentiality to protect for Amaria. She’s dead. Moreover, these confidentiality rules are intended to protect vulnerable children, not inept bureaucrats whose inaction harms children.

Many questions remain. What did Amaria tell the investigator? What were the conditions of the home? Was there evidence of drug use? What are the specifics of the report of abuse in March? Did the report allege drug use or mental health issues?

We call on DCFS for full transparency, including release of the entire file and case notes.

Transparency is the best — the only — medicine to improve government. As long as DCFS attempts to avoid releasing information when a child is harmed, hiding behind confidentiality rules intended to protect children, there is little hope for meaningful reform.

Charles P. Golbert, Cook County Public Guardian

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