Although the mother of Christopher Valdez, a 4-year-old who died of blunt force trauma consistent with abuse on his birthday, was convicted last month of criminally battering the child in July, the Department of Child and Family Services failed to intervene, citing a lack of evidence.
Now, the agency is facing harsh criticism from Cook County's top child welfare official.
"It's crazy that there could be a criminal finding of guilt but that DCFS did not make a similar finding," Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris told the Chicago Sun-Times about the agency's dismissal of the abuse case in August, which concluded that there was "no credible evidence" of abuse. Harris told the newspaper that Christopher should have been removed from the home after his mother, Crystal Valdez, openly admitted she beat him and said she had "anger issues."
The DCFS inspector general has launched an investigation into the agency's handling of the abuse reported in July, which Crystal Valdez confessed to in court and was substantiated by the boy's injuries, CBS Chicago reports.
When Christopher was brought to an Oak Lawn hospital with the injuries that prompted Crystal Valdez's initial battery conviction, medical personnel observed that makeup had been used to cover his bruises, and police again found evidence of concealment attempts after the boy's death. Police said he may have been dead for several hours before emergency crews arrived on the scene. Christopher's aunt and her husband alerted authorities after finding his body while at the house to deliver a birthday cake.
Crystal Valdez and her boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, were charged with first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death Monday, after Crystal admitted to watching Ruiz beat Christopher earlier in the week, and to spanking him herself.