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Report: Illinois office had the contest to close relatives of the cases

CHICAGO – Joliet-office of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services offered gift cards to employees to close the most cases for just a few months before a missing 1-year-old girl, her body was found under a sofa in a house, in a report Saturday said.

The Chicago Tribune reported the existence of the race a day after the department released a report reviewing the actions that led to the death of 1-year-old Semaj Crosby. The toddler was found dead April 26 in a Joliet Township home shortly after DCFS closed an investigation into the question of whether she was neglected.

The contest, which began in January awarded $100 gift cards to the two employees who closed the most cases within a month, the report said. The third place winner received a $50 gift card.

It is unclear whether any of the winners were involved with DCFS questions on Semaj at home.

DCFS Director George Sheldon said the competition was incorrect.

“The offer of financial incentives such as that, I think, is a wrong step,” Sheldon said. “I think the intentions were good, but the way they handled it was not.”

State Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat who was chairman of a recent legislative hearing on DCFS investigation, called the contest “unethical.” She called the office of the inspector general to conduct an immediate investigation in the contest, including the children and families affected by issues that may have been closed.

“Children’s lives could be in danger because of this bad behavior,” Flowers said. “This is not a game.”

The DCFS report released Friday said Semaj’s family came to DCFS attention in September 2016. The files involved Crosby, her parents, an aunt and three siblings. The report says that, while the allegations of inadequate supervision and the use of drugs in the house were unfounded, an intact family case was opened. The measure was taken to the family with “support for housing and education assistance.”

Sheldon said that he does not believe that the pressure to do things quickly played a role in Semaj the case, but said he understands why people might have that perception.”

“We have aggressively these cases with a sense of urgency, but I want to make sure that the message will not be understood to cut back,” Sheldon said.

Senior Deputy Director Neil t. skene said DCFS is reviewing the question of whether the discipline any supervisors for the contest. The agency is preparing a notice to all employees warning against such incentives, he said.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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