In a situation highlighting the need for strong and thorough child safeguarding procedures, a scandal involving the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has come to light.
DCFS recently placed a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim in the care of Erick Johnson, a three-time convicted felon accused of forcing her into prostitution. Approved to act as the minor’s ‘fictive kin’ counselor, Johnson did not have to go through official authorization, yet still received a criminal background check and final stamp of approval from the DCFS.
The case only came to the attention of the CBS 2 Investigators after a judge heard evidence from a DCFS-hired psychologist, who advised the department that the teen should be immediately relocated to a secure residential program. Left in Johnson’s care, the teen experienced a history of ongoing trafficking, sexual assault and gunfire, to the point that she even spent time living on the street.
Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert spoke out about the situation, claiming it was impossible that the process was followed and totally beyond shocking that Johnson was allowed to become a foster parent in the first place. He further added that either DCFS neglected the required background, or if they had conducted the analysis thoroughly, the organization was not particularly concerned about the criminal records.
In a statement to the CBS 2 Investigators, DCFS positions that the teen in question was placed with a friend of the family with the support of her adoptive and birth mothers, as well as from the guardian ad litem, as a way to supply her with some form of stabilization. As well, the agency announced that she has already been removed from the household and there is no further presence of other foster or adoptive children.
Golbert dismissively replied to the statement, labeling it misleading and dishonest. He clarified that DCFS had concurred that Johnson had gone past the clearance ratings, and had even approved him as a paid fictive kin placement. At this point, he concluded that a background verification was either never done in the first place, or if it had been, then it was executed incompetently, or that DCFS did not pay particular attention to the results.
Golbert is now looking at the possibility of filing a civil rights lawsuit on the victim’s behalf against DCFS.