DCFS workers who monitored Crystal Lake boy removed from duty

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."

DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch declined to name the employees.

The development came as the agency's new director, Marc D. Smith, prepared to testify Friday afternoon before a House appropriations committee examining budget requests from several agencies.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat who heads the House Adoption and Child Welfare Committee, said Smith should expect tough questioning about the agency's action not only in AJ's case but the deaths since February of two other children under DCFS watch.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker directed the research center Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to issue what Pritzker called "actionable recommendations" into how the DCFS's Intact Family Services Unit functions. A report is expected next month.

Prosecutors allege AJ's parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, forced the boy to stand in a cold shower and beat him at the home in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake.

DCFS released a timeline of events detailing the agency's interaction with the family dating to 2012, including Cunningham's role as a DCFS foster parent before AJ and a younger brother were born. It showed the last contact came in December, when bruising on AJ was attributed to the family dog. That case was closed in January.