OMNI Youth Services and a caseworker were recently named in a wrongful death suit following the death of a two-year-old boy.
A wrongful death lawsuit was recently filed against OMNI Youth Services in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of Ja’hir Gibbons, a two-year-old boy who was beaten to death back in March. In addition to the social services agency, one of its caseworkers is also named as a defendant. The suit, which was filed by the child’s half-sister, Ranesha Gibbons, alleges the defendant’s negligence caused the child’s untimely death.
OMNI Youth Services is an organization based in Illinois that is “contracted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to provide social services.” According to the suit, the agency and the unnamed caseworker failed to “protect Ja’hir from physical abuse.” Additionally, it argues the caseworker “falsified a report to DCFS about a welfare visit to Ja’hir’s home two days before he was killed.”
The assailant in the child’s death was Dejon Waters. Waters was Brittany Hyc’s boyfriend. Hyc was the child’s mother. Since the incident, Waters has been “charged with murder…and Hyc faces charges of child endangerment because prosecutors say she left Ja’hir with Waters even though she noticed bruises on the boy days before his death.” However, soon after Ja’hir’s death, questions began swirling around about how “contract caseworkers for DCFS handled investigations involving the family.”
When commenting on the matter, James D. Montgomery Jr. said, “There is a serious problem with accountability of caseworkers and how they manage kids and how they affect lives.” Montgomery Jr. is the attorney representing Ranesha Gibbons.
So how has OMNI Youth Services responded to the allegations? Well, Doryce McCarthy, the president of the agency, said an internal investigation has been opened and added, “We take all situations really seriously here and we’re deeply committed to the safety and wellbeing of the children we take care of.”
Prior to his death, Ja’hir lived with his older brother, Josiah, at their mother’s home in the Washington Park neighborhood. The DCFC began interacted with Hyc back in 2010 when it received “allegations of abuse of her older children.” When it came to Ja’hir and Josiah, the agency became aware of potential physical abuse back in November 2017, including “reports that Ja’hir suffered cuts and bruises inflicted by Waters.”
Even relatives close to the child began reporting the abuse. For example, Ja’hir’s grandmother reported “seeing that they were badly bruised the same day that caseworkers visited the boys and reported that they were fine.”
As a result of the reports, the OMNI caseworker named in the suit visited Hyc’s home last October and noted “Ja’hir had been the victim of physical abuse.” Then on March 16 the same caseworker returned to the home and interviewed the child. Shortly after the caseworker “submitted a report to DCFS stating that Ja’hir was present and safe from abuse.” However, according to the suit, “Ja’hir was not home at the time of the visit.”
A couple of days later, Ja’hir was left home alone with Waters. When Hyc returned, she found her son “unresponsive, his body covered in bruises.” An autopsy report later revealed he died from numerous injuries.
The caseworker included in the suit was negligent because if the March 16 report hadn’t been falsified, “DCFS would have had reason to immediately remove Ja’hir from his mother’s house,” the suit alleges.