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DCFS Director Steps Down As Controversy Swirls Over Death Of Semaj Crosby: Reports

By Stephen Gossett in News on May 31, 2017 9:59PM

The embattled head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is out. According to reports by the Sun-Times and the Tribune, George Sheldon resigned on Wednesday as director of DCFS as the department faces a deluge of controversy in the wake of the April death of 1-year-old Semaj Crosby.

Sheldon will likely be replaced by the department's general counsel Lise Spacapan for the interim as a replacement is sought, according to reports. He will relocate back to Florida.

"The recent public attention to the challenges still confronting this agency were a strong inducement to stay and continue the progress already made... I yield, however, to the strong temptation to return to work in my home state, where I have spent most of my professional career," Sheldon wrote in a letter of resignation to Gov. Bruce Rauner obtained by the Tribune.

The department has been plagued by scandals in recent months, the most high-profile being the death of young Crosby. Department of Children and Family Services officials, working on a neglect investigation, had visited the Will County house where the 16-month-old girl lived just hours before she was reported missing. Police and FBI later found the body of Crosby there. Authorities said the home was in "deplorable condition."

The Tribune reported on Tuesday that a DCFS supervisor had started a contest that incentivized investigators to close cases quickly, offering $100 gift cards to those who logged the most closings within a month.

The department and the state's Executive Inspector General had launched a joint probe into the department, the Sun-Times notes.

Sheldon's own tenure was preceded by a long rocky patch for the department. Accusations of abuse and neglect have dogged the department going back multiple directors. Sheldon was the fifth person to serve in the post within just 18 months; and the department has now seen eight people take the post within just five years, according to reports.