CHICAGO — Nineteen children found living in a filth-strewn apartment may be returned to their parents, an official said Friday.
"It's not a felony to live in a filthy apartment. Reports that the children had been mistreated were incorrect," Cook County State's Atty. Jack O'Malley said. "They were just living in filth."
Prosecutors, however, said one of the 19 children had been mistreated, and O'Malley said that while he believes the children should be taken from their families, it probably will not happen. Prosecutors have no plans to drop the charges filed in the case, he said.
Six adults--four mothers who all are sisters, a father and an uncle--have been charged with misdemeanor child neglect. One woman, Denise Turner, 20, was charged with felony child endangerment. Prosecutors said Turner's 4-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, was malnourished, bitten and burned.
Police discovered the squalid scene late Tuesday while investigating a report that drugs were being sold there. Wind whistled through broken windows and food was rotted in the refrigerator.
Eighteen children were in foster homes Friday, said Scott Hamilton, an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman. The 4-year-old was in fair condition at a hospital.
Gov. Jim Edgar blamed a caseworker who was suspended Thursday for not helping the children earlier.
"If that person had followed the department's policy this would not have happened," he said Friday.
The caseworker made two visits but was denied entry. Under department guidelines, workers should call police if they are denied entry, and if that fails the department and the police can ask a judge for a search warrant.
Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy said the families involved were receiving more than $4,000 a month in food stamps and government aid.