JB Pritzker

Former Foster Mom Speaks Out After 20-Month-Old Dies Amid DCFS Investigation

The governor commissioned the study, which revealed systemic issues in DCFS

A foster mom is speaking out after the 20-month-old child she was fostering died just weeks after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services returned her to her family.

Renee Mingilino is heartbroken by the death of her former foster child Cheri Kennon, who she cared for for nearly a year.

"I feel like I lost a child," Mingillino said.

Cheri was returned to her birth mom this Spring. She died 6 weeks later.

"It was my goal that Cheri be returned to her family, but under the right circumstances," Mingilino said. "This family was not held accountable."

Mingilino says when she took custody on Cheri in April of 2018. She was 7 months old and weighed only 6 pounds. She was born blind and was diagnosed with a brain malformation which affects development. She had a whole team of medical providers, saw a medical professional once a week.

In February there was an accident, Cheri fell off her therapy wedge which caused a bruise. DCFS removed her and launched an investigation.

Mangilino received a notice in April showing she was clear to foster again, however a Cook County judge had determined Cheri could go home March 25.

And then to learn that there was another investigation opened just weeks before she died is just even more gutwrenching.

DCFS confirms three days after Cheri went home there was a new allegation of neglect. It was still an open investigation when Cheri died on May 8.

A newly released report ordered by Gov. JB Pritzker found DCFS failures dealing with parents who don’t cooperate with counseling services and pressure to keep families together despite evidence of abuse or neglect.

"Hold those parents accountable and if they don’t do it, they don’t get the kids back," Mingillino said. "This is about making change in a system where children--innocent children--are at stake."

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