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Adoption advocate charged with allowing abuse
Woman's son accused of molesting 2 girls over 8 years
By Ofelia Casillas
Chicago Chicago Tribune
12:18 AM CDT, August 28, 2008
A Rosemont woman who has been active in adoption and foster-care issues in Illinois has been charged with failing to prevent repeated sexual assaults of two girls in her home, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Patricia Cooper, 67, was charged with two counts of permitting the sexual abuse of a child, authorities said. Bail was set at $40,000 during a hearing Wednesday in the Rolling Meadows branch of Cook County Circuit Court.
Prosecutors said the girls had attempted to report the abuse in the past, but had recanted their stories after Cooper had threatened them.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated complaints of physical and sexual abuse at least twice—in late 2006 and earlier this year—but DCFS considered the allegations to be unfounded, according to state records and a DCFS spokesman. The spokesman said he could not comment on details of the earlier investigations.
The girls told authorities they had been beaten and threatened with physical abuse by Cooper and her daughter, state records show.
Cooper has been active in groups that have advised the state on adoption laws and procedures, her lawyer, prosecutors and others said.
"It's sad. It's so devastating to hear that someone whom we looked to as an advocate in this system could be tied to something so heinous," Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris said. "It's crazy."
Neither Cooper nor her daughter has been charged with physically abusing the girls. The daughter has not been charged with anything.
Cooper's son, Christopher, 26, who lived with his mother and sister, was charged last week with predatory criminal sexual assault. He was ordered held without bail at a hearing Saturday.
Christopher Cooper is accused of repeatedly molesting the girls, now ages 15 and 17, over a period of eight years, said Matt Medina, an assistant state's attorney.
The girls recently revealed the abuse to school officials, who called police, authorities said.
DCFS records show that one of the girls earlier this year told Rosemont police she had been physically abused by Patricia Cooper. The complaint was ruled unfounded, court records show.
Records also show DCFS investigated a complaint in November 2006 that another of the girls had become pregnant by Christopher Cooper and was pressured into having an abortion. The DCFS report indicated the agency believed there had been sexual contact but said statements made to investigators were not credible.
Patricia Cooper has been active in the Illinois Council on Adoptable Children, an advocacy and support group.
On Friday, DCFS removed three children from the home after a call to the DCFS hot line, another DCFS spokesman said. One of the girls already had left the Coopers' home, state records show.
Ofelia Casillas is a Tribune reporter. George Houde is a freelance reporter.