One young gun-violence victim beats the odds

In 2009, when Ondelee Perteet was 14, he was shot in the jaw at a birthday party on Chicago’s West Side. The bullet severed his spine, paralyzing him from the neck down. His doctors told him that he would never walk again, but three and a half years later, he is beginning to walk with the help of crutches.The Chicago Reporter has been following Perteet’s story over the past year.

Dying even after warning signs

It’s been a brutal summer. I’m not just talking about the record-breaking heat that fell on us a few days at a time but had us complaining like we had been living in a humidifier all summer.We were reminded of the brutal summer every time we picked up a paper and the headline read: “Another youth …”You know how the story went. More youth have been dying in Chicago because of violence than in any other city in our country. These crimes bring up images of guns and chalk-lined streets. But rarely do you envision the crime scene being a bedroom or some other safe haven in people’s homes.But that’s the story flying under the radar.In this month’s investigation, “Toying with danger,” Reporter María Inés Zamudio uncovered that, while the state’s homicide rate has dropped 26 percent in the past decade, the number of children who were killed after the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated their cases for abuse or neglect has remained stubbornly unchanged.Something has to be done about this.

Best Practices: Doing it right in Dixieland

In the mid-’90s, a TV producer was making the rounds visiting child protection agencies around the country. When she got to Alabama, she witnessed something unusual. Paul Vincent, then-director of Child Protective Services at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, remembers the producer telling him that caseworkers in this agency “talk about their families like they like them and respect them, and we’re not accustomed to hearing that.”
That’s exactly what Vincent wanted to hear. The agency was in the midst of a federally mandated overhaul of its system. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law filed a class-action lawsuit against the human resources department in 1988, claiming it was failing the children in its care.

Fostering victims of violence

Five days before his birthday, an 18-year-old was walking down the street on his way to play basketball. Around 7 p.m., shots rang out, and he was hit and left there to die. A passerby found him, and he was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the head. The 18-year-old, whose name is withheld in an official report, is among 63 gun-related homicide victims whose cases had been investigated by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for alleged abuse or neglect. These gun-related homicides accounted for 28 percent of 223 deaths recorded among DCFS-involved children between 2000 and 2011, shows a Chicago Reporter analysis of death reports and investigations by the DCFS Office of the Inspector General.