For State Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa), a young boy’s death in 2019 in McHenry County sparked a renewed mission and passion for his work in Springfield. Four years later, a former DCFS worker has been convicted following the death of 5-year-old A.J. Freund. The boy’s parents are currently in jail, including the mother for first-degree murder and the father for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery of a child, and concealment of a homicidal death.
“In 2019 a little boy named A.J. Freund was found buried in a shallow grave in McHenry County,” Rep. Weber stated. “A.J.’s death forever changed my work here in Springfield. Despite several interactions between the family and DCFS, little A.J. died because the agency suffers from systemic problems that need to be addressed. And not only by throwing more money at it.”
According to a report by the Inspector General, 171 children who had prior contact with DCFS died in Illinois in 2022. That represents a 40 percent increase from 2021. These tragedies occurred despite a funding increase to $1.5 billion for the Department of Children and Family Services in the Governor’s 2022 budget.
“Children at risk of abuse are the very definition of our most vulnerable people in Illinois, yet they are being failed in the worst possible way,” Rep. Weber stated. “Protecting vulnerable children is not and should not be a partisan issue,” Rep. Weber stated. “Protecting them is our most basic responsibility. Failure is not an option.”
Weber serves in various working groups and house committees on child safety and welfare. In 2022, Weber was appointed as the lone Republican to serve on the Task Force on Children Advocacy Centers (CAC) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children Funding. The task force works to ensure that each CAC and CASA facility receives adequate funding from the state and from the organization’s own fundraising to respond to the number and severity of child abuse and neglect cases in their respective jurisdictions.
Earlier this year, Weber was appointed by Minority Leader Tony McCombie to Chair the Sustaining and Protecting At-Risk Kids working group for the House Republican Caucus in the 103rd General Assembly.
“Children are being failed by the systemic problems at DCFS,” Rep. Weber stated. “I’ve spoken with many legislators on both sides of the aisle who agree. I hope this working group may be a pathway for our caucus to fine tune and bring forward reform proposals that can win bipartisan support from our colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle.”