Lawmakers & Activists Call for DCFS Reform Near Anniversary of AJ Freund’s Death

AJ Freund
AJ Freund.
(Crime Online)

April 14th, 2022 was the three year anniversary of the brutal, unnecessary, preventable death of five-year-old AJ Freund, the first child I ever covered on the blog and on Suffer the Little Children Podcast (here and here).

AJ was one of hundreds of children who died since 2019 under the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), a number that also includes several other children I’ve featured on the blog and/or the podcast, namely Tate Thurman, James Ryker Biel, Rica Jae Rountree, and Kerrigan Rutherford.

Around the anniversary of AJ’s death, Tracy Kotzman, founder of the activist group Roar for AJ, filled the floor of the Illinois State Capital Rotunda with empty shoes in remembrance of those hundreds of children while, on the house floor, lawmakers from both major political parties called for an overhaul of the agency tasked with protecting vulnerable children in Illinois.

Links to external articles:

Both parties call for reform of DCFS on three-year anniversary of AJ Freund’s death (

Group rallies for children who died of abuse despite DCFS involvement (

More than 300 pairs of children’s shoes on display represent kids with prior DCFS contact who died (ABC 7 Eyewitness News)

Empty shoes at Statehouse spotlight Illinois child deaths (NewsChannel 20)

Display calls attention to plight of children under DCFS watch (Daily Herald)

Lawmakers, ‘Roar for AJ’ group to hold rally in remembrance of AJ Freund at Illinois State Capitol (Lake & McHenry County Scanner)

Lawmakers call for audit of Illinois DCFS due to child deaths, ongoing issues (Lake & McHenry County Scanner)

Illinois lawmakers call for DCFS audit on 3-year anniversary of AJ Freund’s death: ‘We have a failed system’ (Fox 32 Chicago)

Click here for my previous blog coverage of AJ’s story. Click here for my podcast episode about AJ, and click here for my “AJ Freund Revisited” episode.

Sources: websites listed above

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