DCFS Releases Timeline Of Involvement With Freund Family

Bernie Tafoya
April 26, 2019 - 11:32 am
Andrew “AJ” Freund House

WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO/AP) -- The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is outlining Friday years of involvement it has had with the parents of murdered 5-year-old AJ Freund.

The Department of Children and Family Services announced Friday that the two employees have been placed on administrative duty without casework while the agency reviews their interaction with the family of Andrew "AJ" Freund of Crystal Lake and other families. A spokesman declined to name the employees.

DCFS released a timeline showing agency contact with AJ's family dating to 2012. 

The agency said it took away AJ Freund from his mother when he was born in 2013, because he had drugs in his system. The judge ordered that the boy be returned to his parents 18 months later.

A DCFS case worker made 26 unannounced and scheduled to the home over the next year and found no signs of abuse. In December, AJ and his 4-year-old brother were taken from their parents for less than a day; but during a visit to the emergency room that day, for a bruised hip, a doctor reported that AJ said he did not know how it happened, but that "maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me."

The boy went home with his father, Andrew Freund Sr., and was dead four months later. 

AJ's parents have been charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege the couple forced the boy to stand in a cold shower and beat him.

JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr.
Crystal Lake police

According to the DCFS released timeline, the agency's first interaction with the family began in 2012, before AJ was born. The boy's mother, JoAnn Cunningham was a DCFS foster parent who had two prior unfounded cases in 2012. In 2013, Cunnigham gave birth to Andrew "AJ" Freund, who tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines. AJ was removed from his mother's care and 18 months later, the court returned AJ to Cunningham. In 2014, Cunningham gave birth to another son. According to DCFS, the juvenile court closed Andrew’s case and DCFS monitoring ceased.

In March 2018, DCFS begins investigation into allegations of neglect by father and mother and the case was closed in May. In December 2018, DCFS began another investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect against Cunningham. AJ was removed from the home due to bruising, but the investigation was closed in January, as unfounded. 

"DCFS is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our work with AJ’s family. Both the caseworker and the supervisor responsible for this case have been placed on administrative duty and will have no casework responsibilities as this review takes place. DCFS will also be reviewing all cases that have been handled by these two employees. As we move forward, we will be fully transparent with the public as we seek to address any possible shortcomings in this incident and understand how we can better serve the state’s vulnerable children and families," the agency said in a statement.

Below is DCFS's complete timeline with the Freud family:

  • 06/07/12 DCFS received a hotline call alleging inadequate supervision.  The allegations were that JoAnn is abusing prescription drugs and neglecting her foster child. The report was unfounded and expunged.
  • 12/24/12  DCFS hotline received a call alleging environmental neglect and injurious environment as to her oldest son.  The report alleged JoAnn is abusing prescription drugs and has mental health issues. The report was unfounded and expunged. 
  • 10/16/13  DCFS received a hotline report alleging substance misuse by neglect, after JoAnn gave birth to Andrew on 10/14/13.  Andrew and JoAnn tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines.  The report was indicated for Substance Misuse.  Andrew was removed from his mother’s care during the investigation.
  • 11/12/13 DCFS takes protective custody of Andrew.
  • 11/14/13 DCFS is granted temporary custody of Andrew in Juvenile Court.  Youth Service Bureau of Illinois is assigned to provide services to the parents and Andrew. JoAnn and Andrew’s father participated in parenting classes, drug treatment and continued to participate in methadone maintenance and individual counseling through a drug treatment program.
  • June, 2015 Judge orders Andrew returned to the custody of his mother.  

Youth Service Bureau worker makes 17 unannounced visits to the parents’ home on 6/24/15, 7/1/15, 7/8/15, 7/22/15, 8/5/15, 8/9/15, 8/27/15, 9/1/15, 9/29/15, 10/4/15, 10/26/15, 12/17/15, 1/13/16, 1/21/16, 2/2/16, 2/25/16, and 3/11/16.  The worker does not observe any signs of abuse or neglect. 

Youth Service Bureau worker makes nine scheduled visits to the parents’ home on 6/13/15, 6/17/15, 7/7/15, 7/20/15, 9/9/15, 11/12/15, 12/3/15, 3/24/16 and 4/13/16.  The worker does not observe any signs of abuse or neglect. 

  • 8/28/15  Worker is informed the father’s drug test was invalid.
  • April, 2016 Andrew’s juvenile court case is closed.  
  • 03/21/18  DCFS received a hotline report that alleged substantial risk of physical injury/injurious environment and environment neglect against the mother and father.  The report alleged that the mother was brought to the emergency room after being found unresponsive in a car.  Andrew was observed at the hospital to have odd bruising on his face.  

DCFS investigator contacted the parents in unsuccessful attempt to see the children on  03/21/18, 3/29/18 and 4/9/18,

  • 04/25/18  DCFS investigator met with JoAnn, Andrew and his younger brother. JoAnn was interviewed while the boys played outside in the driveway of the home. DCFS investigator observed the boys to be clean and did not find signs of maltreatment.
  • 05/17/18  DCFS investigator completed a final safety assessment of the home.  Both boys were observed clean and dressed appropriately.  Mother reported a history of drug use and current drug treatment. The home was observed to be clean, neat and adequately furnished.  
  • 05/18/18  DCFS investigator verified mother’s participation in a drug treatment program.  The report from March, 2018 was unfounded and the investigation closed.
  • 12/18/18  DCFS received a hotline report alleging environmental neglect as to both boys and cuts, welts and bruises as to Andrew.  After being called to the home by the mother, police observed a large bruise on Andrew’s hip.  Police observed the ceiling falling down, the floor torn up, and the kids’ bedroom smelled of dog urine. JoAnn was arrested for driving on a suspended license and Protective Custody was taken of both children.
  • 12/18/18  DCFS investigator interviewed the boys at Crystal Lake Police Department.  DCFS investigator attempted to engage the younger brother who would not talk to the investigator. The child appeared to be healthy and well cared for.  Andrew was interviewed and reported that he received the bruise when the family dog pawed him.  DCFS investigator interviewed JoAnn at the police station. She stated they were remodeling the home and did admit to dog feces and urine being present in the home.  DCFS investigator asked her to take Andrew to Immediate Care after she was bailed out.  The father presented to bond mother out. JoAnn requested to be tested for drugs.  DCFS investigator ended Protective Custody and children were returned home.
  • 12/18/18  ER Physician examined Andrew and could not state how his injury was caused. The doctor reported injury could have been caused by a dog, belt or a football.  The doctor was concerned because Andrew stated that “maybe someone hit me with a belt.  Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”  DCFS investigator contacted the father to pick the children up from hospital until the home environment can be assessed. The father was asked to remain in the home as a safety precaution.
  • 12/19/18  DCFS investigator conducted an unannounced home visit. The home was observed.  The living room and dining room were cluttered with clothes and toys.  The kitchen was clean and the floor was missing tile. The ceiling was not falling and investigator sensed a slight odor of dog urine.  No feces or urine was observed on the floor. The father reported to the investigator that he did pick the children up from the hospital last night.  The father denied any corporal punishment and he denied mother using drugs.
  • 12/20/18  DCFS investigator spoke with the past DCFS investigator regarding her case and findings.
  • 01/04/19  DCFS unfounded the report due to lack of evidence for cuts, welt and bruises allegation.  
  • 04/18/19  The police were called to the home in response to Andrew being reported missing and DCFS received a hotline report alleging environmental neglect and inadequate supervision. Police observed the home to have ripped up floors, food lying around and clothes/garbage everywhere.   
  • 04/18/19  DCFS investigator arrived at the Crystal Lake Police Department and spoke with the police.  Protective custody of younger brother was taken.  The younger brother was placed with a licensed foster parent.  The younger brother was examined by a medical professional, appeared healthy and showed no obvious visible signs of abuse or neglect.
  • 04/24/19 Police found Andrew’s body and arrested JoAnn and Andrew’s father on charges of murder and other charges related to his death.