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Case Name BH v. DCFS CW-IL-0003
Docket / Court 88 C 5599 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in 1988 in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, against the state of Illinois, on behalf of all children in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) placed somewhere other than with their parents. In ... read more >
The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in 1988 in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, against the state of Illinois, on behalf of all children in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) placed somewhere other than with their parents. In 1989, the Court recognized plaintiff's constitutional and statutory claims under the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. s. 1983 and Adoption Assistance Welfare Act 42 U.S.C. ss. 620-28, 670-76. B.H. v. Johnson, 715 F. Supp. 1387 (N.D. Ill. 1989).

The class consisted of all children who had been or would be in the custody of DCFS, and children who had been or would be placed somewhere other than with their parents. The ACLU, the Office of the Public Guardian, and private counsel represented the class. The plaintiffs asked the court to grant injunctive relief, alleging that the policies and practices of DCFS violated substantive due process, equal protection, and procedural due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, violated provisions of the AAA, and violated state statutory provisions. More specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that DCFS policies and practices had resulted in mental and physical damage to the plaintiffs, because DCFS failed to place them in safe, stable homes in a suitable time and manner.

The plaintiffs alleged that while children were in DCFS custody (because of abuse or neglect by their custodians), DCFS failed to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, health care, protection from harm, and education to the children. The various homes, shelters, and institutions in which the children were housed did not offer adequate educational opportunities, and the behavior of the children was controlled by physical discipline. Placement in these institutions caused damage to the physical and emotional well being of the children. In one DCFS shelter an eight year-old girl was raped by two twelve year-old boys. DCFS caseworkers were assigned too many cases to allow them to competently perform their duties and as a result did not follow-up on the cases that they were assigned. Children faked suicide attempts and slit their wrists to get the attention of the DCFS worker in charge of their case. DCFS failed to provide funding and services that were essential to the care of children in its custody. Additionally, DCFS failed to ensure that necessary services to reunite families were in place.

The parties entered a consent decree in 1991, under which DCFS promised to hire additional employees to investigate child abuse and check on children in state custody. At the request of both sides, the Court appointed a Monitor to oversee the process and provide reports on the defendant's progress towards implementing the provisions of the decree.

The Office of the Public Guardian, which acted as guardian ad litem for many children in DCFS custody, sought to intervene. The District Court (Judge Grady) repeatedly denied the motions to intervene. On January 14, 1993, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (Judge Richard Dickson Cudahy) affirmed the District Court's decision. B.H. v. Murphy, 984 F.2d 196 (7th Cir. 1993). The Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari on June 7, 1993. Murphy v. B.H., 508 U.S. 960 (1993).

In 1994, the Monitor filed a report with the Court stating that DCFS had complied with less than half of the 93 reforms stipulated in the consent decree. Press coverage of the Monitor's reports, public interest in the court-held status conferences, and attention from gubernatorial campaigns created an adversarial stalemate between the parties. As a result, the District Court held that the public did not have a right of access to status conferences between the parties. B.H. v. Ryder, 856 F. Supp. 1285 (N.D. Ill. 1994).

The parties then agreed to new strategies to implement the goals of the consent decree. A research center at the University of Illinois replaced the court monitor in providing regular reports on the defendant's progress. Additionally, the parties identified strategies to address the most serious non-compliance issues. The parties filed a Restated Consent Decree reflecting these modifications in 1997.

By July 2001, DCFS achieved substantial compliance with the original consent decree. Because of plaintiffs' on-going concerns about inadequate case workers and services, though, the parties negotiated a joint modification of the consent decree, approved by the Court in February 2003.

Defendants continued to struggle with addressing children's educational outcomes and access to mental health services as of a September 2005 court-held status conference. The Illinois legislature had proposed cuts in funding for DCFS in 2009, but the Court ordered the defendants to continue complying with the consent decree regardless of funding cuts.

Plaintiffs complained in 2012 to DCFS that its investigator caseloads were still substantially out of compliance with the consent decree. The parties negotiated an implementation plan in August 2012 to address the compliance issue regarding investigation caseloads. The case is ongoing.

Elizabeth Homan - 10/29/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Adoption
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Counseling
Discharge & termination plans
Disciplinary procedures
Education
Emergency shelter
Failure to discipline
Family reunification
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Foster care (benefits, training)
Juveniles
Neglect by staff
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Placement in detention facilities
Placement in mental health facilities
Placement in shelters
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Sanitation / living conditions
Sexual abuse by residents/inmates
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medical care, unspecified
Mental health care, general
Self-injurious behaviors
Mental Disability
Depression
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action Adoption Assistance Program, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
42 U.S.C. 1983
Defendant(s) Illinois
Plaintiff Description All children in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and will be placed somewhere other than with their parents.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1991 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Making Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children and Sustain Families
By: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon Center)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
1:88-cv-5599 (N.D. Ill.) 08/14/2012
CW-IL-0003-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion 05/30/1989 (715 F.Supp. 1387) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion 12/19/1989 (128 F.R.D. 659) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Opinion (7th Cir.) 01/14/1993 (984 F.2d 196)
CW-IL-0003-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Supreme Court Opinion (denying cert.) 06/07/1993 (508 U.S. 960)
CW-IL-0003-7500 WESTLAW | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
DCFS Stung for Unkept Promises 02/02/1994
CW-IL-0003-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source: Papers of Beth Harris
Memorandum Opinion 05/02/1994 (856 F.Supp. 1285) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Consent Decree 12/20/1999 (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0010 PDF | Detail
Settlement Agreement (attorney fees and costs) 06/09/2008
CW-IL-0003-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supplemental Order to Enforce Consent Decree 06/30/2009 (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0008 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion for Entry of Order Approving Implementation Plan 08/07/2012
CW-IL-0003-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 08/14/2012 (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0009 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Cudahy, Richard Dickson (Seventh Circuit)
CW-IL-0003-0004
Grady, John Francis (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0002 | CW-IL-0003-0003 | CW-IL-0003-0005 | CW-IL-0003-0006 | CW-IL-0003-0008 | CW-IL-0003-0009 | CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brody, Michael L. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Dalenberg, Heidi (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0006 | CW-IL-0003-0007 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Gomez, Danielle Renee (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Grippando, Thomas J. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Grossman, Harvey (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0010
Lippitz, Bradley H.W. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Mena, Yvonne E. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Murphy, Patrick Thomas (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Nowaczewski, Jeanne L. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Turner, Lori Nicole (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Wolf, Benjamin S. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0006 | CW-IL-0003-0007 | CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baer, Kimberley K. (Iowa)
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Getzendanner, Susan Christine O'Meara (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Golbert, Charles P. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Greenspan, Barbara Lynn (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0007 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Kenney, Mary B. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Lowder, Lee A. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
McEwen, Erwin (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0006
Rascia, Ronald Anthony (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Smith, Charles F. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0010
Tchen, Christina M. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Wiegand, Thomas J. (Illinois)
CW-IL-0003-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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