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U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood honors Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund in House speech

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood delivered a speech Friday morning on the floor of the House of Representatives in memory of 5-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund.

In her speech, Underwood said the foster care system must be improved. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had contact with AJ on and off since 2013, when he was born with opiates in his system, according to DCFS reports. His parents, Andrew Freund and JoAnn Cunningham, were charged with murder on April 24 for allegedly beating and killing their son.

Underwood recently introduced an amendment to H.R. 2480, the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, to require research examining the association between parental substance abuse and its impacts on adoption outcomes, according to a news release. On Wednesday, the Committee on Education and Labor voted unanimously to pass H.R. 2480.

“AJ’s death is heartbreaking and so are the flaws in the system that failed him. But one key part of that system – the foster care system – is stretched beyond capacity. In Illinois the need for foster care is rising, while the number of foster homes is decreasing at the fastest rate in the country. Local agencies are reviewing the policies surrounding AJ’s death, but Congress must act as well,” Underwood said.

On May 3, Underwood, D-Naperville, attended the public visitation for AJ in Crystal Lake.

AJ was reported missing by his father April 18. After nearly a week, the boy was found dead, wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave near Woodstock. It was later revealed that AJ died April 15. His obituary described him as a loving, affectionate and outgoing little boy, whose smile could light up a room.

Freund Sr., 60, and Cunningham, 36, have been charged with beating and killing their son days before reporting him missing to police.

Underwood represents Illinois' 14th Congressional District, which includes portions of McHenry County.

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