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DCFS Involved With Tate Thurman's Family 7 Times

The Department of Children and Family Services released a timeline of the agency's involvement with 4-year-old Tate Thurman's family before his death. This comes after WCBU ran a story about the agency's silence on the East Peoria case. 

“Director Smith and DCFS staff at every level are completely devastated by the sudden loss of Tate Thurman, who was just 4 years old when he died two weeks ago," the agency said in a statement. "The tragic incident that led to his death is heartbreaking and DCFS is fully cooperating with law enforcement as we investigate what took place. Our department is committed to being as transparent as possible as this investigation moves forward, while also protecting the privacy of Tate’s siblings and family. We serve families in times of extreme crisis and our top priority will always be protecting them and ensuring they have the support they need to recover.”

DCFS involvement began in 2011 when the agency investigated a co-sleeping incident that led to the death of Jessalyn, the infant child of Tate Thurman's mother, Tara Foley. The agency was involved 7 times over the next 6 years. Thurman's mother lost guardianship of her kids a number of times.

Following the death of Foley in 2017 from a reported drug overdose, Tate and another child were sent to live with their father, Jeremy. The agency claims it had no further involvement until Tate's abuse was reported via hotline on Feb. 18.

He later died at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Lesli Jett, 33, was charged with his murder. She was the girlfriend of Tate's father.

Tate's older sibling and a younger child not related to him were both removed and sent to live with relatives. DCFS said they have had no prior involvement with Jett or the younger child. 

Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert characterized the information released by DCFS Wednesday as "an absolute joke."

"As to the seven investigations, separately for each investigation, what were they for, what were the allegations, what did DCFS find, what action did DCFS take, did DCFS indicate or unfound the allegations, why did it make such decision?" Golbert wrote in an e-mailed statement. 

He called for information on whether or not the agency provided Intact Family Services for the family, whether the allegations which spurred the seven investigations were determined to be unfounded or expunged, and more information on the circumstances surrounding Foley's loss of guardianship. 

Timeline of DCFS Involvement with Tate’s family:

  • DCFS' involvement with Tate’s family began in 2011 when the department investigated his mother for an unsafe sleep environment that led to the death of her newborn child.
  • DCFS conducted a total of seven investigations involving the household over the next six years. Tate’s mother lost guardianship of her children a number of times during those years.
  • Following the death of his mother in 2017, Tate and one of his siblings were returned home by the Tazewell County Court to live with their father, Jeremy Thurman.  Following the closing of the case in 2018, DCFS had no further contact or hotline reports involving this family.
  • On February 18, 2020, DCFS received a hotline report when Tate was brought into OSF St. Francis Hospital with abdominal injuries and internal bleeding. Following Tate’s death, the girlfriend of his father, Lesli Jett, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery.
  • Tate’s older sibling and an unrelated child in the household have been removed from the home and have been placed with relatives.
  • DCFS is investigating allegations of abuse and neglect related to Tate’s death and is working closely with law enforcement to fully investigate what happened in this case.  
  • There is no prior history of DCFS involvement with Leslie Jett or with the other unrelated child removed from the home.


Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.