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DCFS probes juvenile center. Teen alleges assault by a staff member at troubled facility.

Saturday, April 14, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mary Owen and Ofelia Casillas

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is investigating an allegation of abuse at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, which is already under court supervision for past reports of violence and poor conditions, officials said Friday.

The 13-year-old boy alleged he was assaulted by a staff member last week and sustained injuries to his chin and side.

"DCFS received a report of this incident on April 9 and has initiated an abuse investigation," said agency spokesman Kendall Marlowe.

The boy's mother told the Tribune the staff member became angry when her son did not finish his meal and slammed him against a table and then onto the floor.

A source familiar with the situation said the staff member said he was restraining the child, who fought back, and both fell to the floor. The staff member, who has not been identified, has been temporarily reassigned to duty that does not involve direct contact with the teenage residents of the center, county officials said.

The boy has been at the detention center since February, his mother said, after he allegedly stabbed another child who was part of a group that, she said, had attacked her son.

The mother said she has filed a complaint with the facility, where the boy is still being held.

"If I hurt my kid like this, I would go to jail," the boy's mother said

Jennifer Koehler, spokeswoman for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, said detention officials reported the incident to both DCFS and the Cook County inspector general.

"To ensure consistent treatment of incidents like this in the future, President [Todd] Stroger is hiring a full-time investigator," Koehler said. "It shouldn't be too much longer before we hire someone."

The lack of an investigator contributes to the problem, said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Benjamin Wolf, who said violence has plagued the center for years.

"The whole system for investigating abuse is still broken," Wolf said. "There are things out there that happen and they are still not adequately responded to. It's as bad as it ever was."


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