Suffocated Joliet Township Child Case Was Preventable

In June 2017, the body of 17-month-old Sema’j Crosby was found stuffed beneath a couch in a Joliet  Township home. 

A couple of weeks ago, we settled a near $6.5 million dollar wrongful-death lawsuit, on behalf of Sema’j’s estate, targeting Children’s Home and Aid (CHA), a contractor for the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services. CHA had failed to provide Sema’j with adequate care and didn’t remove the child from the home she had been living in, which was in a condemnable state.

On April 24, 2017, a caseworker from CHA visited the home of Sema’j Crosby —  the 41st time in eight months that a caseworker had been sent to the home. The caseworker reported sightings of:

  • bedbugs
  • roaches
  • vermin

Despite the report, Sema’j was not removed from the home, as CHA should have done. This unfortunate lack of action allowed for the tragedy to come the next day when Sema’j was reported missing. Her body was found beneath the couch a day later. Her untimely death was ruled a homicide by asphyxia.

Quote from Jay Paul Deratany stating, "No amount of money can possibly bring Sema'j Crosby back, but we hope that organizations such as Children's Home & Aid, as well as other contractors with the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services, will abide by their contractual obligations to provide the best possible care for children. There was no reason Sema'j had to die, and the money that will go to her brothers and sisters will never ease the pain."

In pursuit of justice, we hope to mitigate the possibility of these tragedies from occurring. Our hope is that as Children’s Home & Aid moves forward, it will learn from its mistakes, and will provide better training to its employees along with better oversight over children under its care. As one of the supervisors admitted, they took on too many cases and were overworked, and that is a problem.

While cases such as Sema’j’s are tragic, our hope is that these tragedies bring to light awareness for necessary regulation, as well as aid, to the agencies and organizations in our foster care system. Caseworkers cannot be allowed to take on more than which they can carry, otherwise, the children can and will suffer from oversights.

DCFS should monitor the number of cases they give to a private organization. And, the private organization should not accept cases unless they can provide ALL services and comply with ALL DCFS regulations.

We can only hope that more cases like Sema’j Crosby’s do not occur in the future.

Want Legal Tips from Expert Attorneys?

Sign up for our newsletter to receive exclusive legal counsel from the Deratany & Kosner team!

Want Legal Tips from Expert Attorneys?

Sign up for our newsletter to receive exclusive legal counsel from the Deratany & Kosner team!