Wrongful death lawsuits filed against DCFS by families of two deceased girls

Wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the state Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) by the families of two deceased girls, accusing the agency of ignoring indications that the children had been placed in abusive households with other relatives.

One lawsuit was filed July 11 in Cook County Circuit Court by the mother and the maternal grandfather of Gizzell Ford, who was eight years old when she died in July 2013. Prosecutors said Ford had been tortured in a West Side home that was strewn with garbage. The other wrongful death suit was filed April 30 in federal court by the paternal grandfather of Gina Presley, who died at the age of three in her aunt’s Oak Forest home.

Investigations by the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ found an increasing number of children dying while being monitored or investigated by DCFS.

The lawsuit by James Fountas, Gina’s paternal grandfather, claims that her maternal grandfather contacted the Oak Forest Police Department and DCFS multiple times to warn them that Gina was being abused by the live-in boyfriend of her legal guardian. Despite the warnings, the lawsuit claims DCFS took no meaningful steps to protect Gina. Authorities concluded that Gina died of blunt force trauma due to child abuse.

In Gizzell’s case, the lawsuit over her death claims that DCFS had access to signs that the girl was being physically abused, but did not protect her.

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