Director of Illinois’ DCFS addresses the death of AJ Freund during budget hearing

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CHICAGO — Illinois’ child-welfare agency removed two employees from case work Friday while officials review their interaction with a family whose 5-year-old son was found beaten to death and covered in plastic in a shallow grave.

The Department of Children and Family Services said it is “conducting a comprehensive review of our work” with the family of Andrew “AJ” Freund, whose parents reported him missing April 19 but who now have been charged with murder in his death.”

Both the caseworker and the supervisor responsible for this case have been placed on administrative duty and will have no casework responsibilities as this review takes place,” a statement from the agency said. “DCFS will also be reviewing all cases that have been handled by these two employees.”

Related: Here’s what life was like for the 5-year-old Illinois boy found in a shallow grave

DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch declined to name the employees.

The development came as the agency’s new director, Marc D. Smith, attends a hearing with members of the Human Services Committee.

At the beginning of the hearing, Smith addressed his background working with families and children, saying he had been serving for more than two decades.  He quickly moved to address the “heartbreaking” death of Freund, saying it was “unacceptable to (him) and this department.”

Smith said he and his team were willing to answer any questions the committee members may have.

He also outlined the budget proposal for 2020, which includes a $75 million increase in funding, which is the biggest increase request the department has seen in over two decades.  Smith said the proposed budget would strengthen the system and allow the department to hire more case workers and investigators who work with children and families.

DCFS officials have released an official timeline of their involvement with the family, see it here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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