Former Illinois Child Welfare Worker Jailed over Boy’s Death

Estimated read time 4 min read

Carlos Acosta, previously a child welfare employee in Illinois, was jailed for half a year related to the death 5yearold Andrew “AJ” Freund.


About the Case

Judge George Strickland’s ruling compelled Acosta to donate $1,000 to a local center advocating for children and perform 200 hours of unspecified community service. The case disturbed people due to flaws in the child welfare system.


The Outcome for Acosta

Accused but acquitted of reckless behavior, Acosta was convicted for child endangerment due to harsh mishandling of abuse investigation cases about AJ before his killing. This event marks the first instance a child welfare worker in Illinois has been prosecuted criminally.

  •  Jail Time, Half a year
  •  Probation, 30 months
  • Community Service Duties, 200 hours
  • Donation, $1,000 given McHenry County Children’s Advocacy Center

Judge Strickland decided on six months prison time over probation despite pleas from Acosta. He said that AJ could have lived happily but instead ended up buried in an unceremonious grave.”


The Tragic Story

At their house located near Crystal Lake, AJ Freund suffered torture and maltreatment at his parents’ hands, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. The former now serves a 35-year sentence for murder whereas the latter faces 30 years imprisonment for covering up the crime.


AJ’s Final Days

After finding noticeable bruising on AJ’s hip area in late December 2018, authorities took him into custody, despite Acosta’s order to end protective treatment that allowed AJ back home with his father. This choice faced heavy backlash during the case.

• AJ was found with a large bruise and told the doctor, “Maybe mommy hit me with a belt.”

• The family had poor living conditions filled with urine.

Acosta allegedly neglected numerous signs of abuse in his reports about AJ such as facial markings and unacceptable housing circumstances. According to the judge, Acosta showed indifference which is against agency protocol for abuse probes.


Courtroom Responses

In court, an inspector general office investigator declared that Acosta wore ear gear showing off a raised middle finger during a postmortem AJ interview. His work phone passcode also read “apathy.” AJ’s grandma read out an affecting account of events criticizing Acosta over AJ’s protection failures. She openly wondered why Acosta did not follow orders laid out by the doctor or law officers nor inspect own premises.

A fault she identified was that outside locks were installed on bedroom doors where AJ spent his days. Acknowledging regret for his contribution to these horrific events, Acosta sought compassion asking for redemption from society and forgiveness from family and friends. Despite apologies, Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese saw no genuine remorse in Acosta.


Community and Law Sector Opinions

Public responses differed among both legal representatives and community dwellers.

• Prosecution, Prosecutors believe he should have taken further steps towards threat prediction for AJ removal from residence. Patrick Kenneally (McHenry County State’s Attorney) criticized Mr. Acosta’s gross negligence in carrying out basic DCFS duties.

• Defense Counsel, Lawyers argued their client became a victim of blame shifting tactics despite exceeding DCFS caseload limit breaches as per court order. they stressed worker challenges met at DCFS due to increased burdens.

Not absolving him, Judge Strickland also found Acosta’s executive DCFS officer Andrew Polovin somehow accountable in AJ’s tragic end although he was declared not at fault in the court.


Public Opinions

Many defend Acosta from blame passed on due to statewide system defects at DCFS while Sam Salazar, a friend, emphasized Acosta’s compassionate side. On the other hand, Tracy Kotzman with ROAR for AJ celebrated the imprisonment verdict sensing a deliberate indifference and viewed it as legal proof evolving over four years.


Effect on DCFS

The case drew public attention to DCFS’s day-to-day workload and employed practices. Chyaire Brown (a supervisor) disclosed an alarming surge of case numbers that breached limits set out by court orders long term and expressed concerns over worker safety in light of two on duty deaths within six years.


DCFS Statement

DCFS publicly accounted for the regrettable case surrounding AJ and shared plans to improve child protective services. Measures include execution of evidence backed SAFE Model which aims to hone critical decision-making skills within field groups.


The Finale Points Hinted

Carlos Acosta’s judgment is a sore reminder of institutional failures leading up to AJ Freund’s tragic death. Concrete issues within DCFS are now clearly shown asking for urgent reforms during such sorrowful times. While public sentiment leans towards justice being served, worries persist about current systems buckling under intense pressure and scrutiny.

Celina Brooks

Celina Brooks from Mussoorie is a Writer & Researcher. She earned her Engineering degree in IT from Rutgers University. She is a technology enthusiast but loves writing and talking about local news as well. She is a jolly person with 2 children.

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