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Case Name B.H. v. Johnson CW-IL-0003
Docket / Court 1:88-cv-5599 ( N.D. Ill. )
State/Territory Illinois
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
The ACLU filed this 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 ... read more >
The ACLU filed this 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. § 1983 and Adoption Assistance Welfare Act 42 U.S.C. §§ 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 John Francis 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), cert. denied, 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, signed into effect on August 14, 2012.

(There was no further activity on the docket until 2015.)

Litigation resumed in February 2015 when plaintiffs alleged that DCFS was again failing to meet the requirements of the consent decree. The parties then nominated experts for the Court to approve in investigating how DCFS can improve its services and placements to the plaintiffs. On October 20, 2015, following the Court-ordered experts' report, Judge Alonso approved the recommendations. On September 28, 2016, Judge Alonso ordered the execution of an ongoing communication plan between DCFS and the experts and entered the Amended and Revised DCFS Implementation Plan incorporating the experts' recommendations and the new communication plan.

(Monitoring of the consent decree is ongoing. There have been no further updates since September 28, 2016.)

DCFS made a significant improvement at first, but it slowed down its efforts to implement the amended plan and especially became uncooperative to information sharing. As such, plaintiffs filed the motion to enforce the decree on December 7, 2017, alleging that the number of case per caseworker was fur-exceeding the standard in the amended decree. Judge Alonso denied this motion on September 20, 2018. Note that DCFS filed a motion to further amend the amended decree on July 23, 2017, which was denied on June 18, 2018.

Also, plaintiff filed the emergency motion to enforce the decree to have DCFS address the safety issue of youth who were hospitalized in Chicago Lakeshore Hospital. Judge Alonso partly granted the motion and ordered injunctive relief.

Regarding an issue in information sharing, plaintiffs filed the motion to enforce the relevant part of the amended decree on February 7, 2018. Although this motion was denied on June 18, 2018, the parties stipulated the procedure to defendant’s response to information request by plaintiffs and experts on June 8, 2018. Judge Alonso granted the stipulation on June 20, 2018, and further appointed the special master to mediate further disagreement on the amended decree and amended implementation plan on December 7, 2018. On January 10, 2019, the special master ruled how he would mediate further disagreement on information sharing.

As of February 2019, the amended decree and implementation plan were still ongoing.

Elizabeth Homan - 10/29/2012
Virginia Weeks - 10/29/2016
Chiaki Nojiri - 02/15/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Crowding / caseload
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Classification / placement
Discharge & termination plans
Disciplinary procedures
Emergency shelter
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Family reunification
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Foster care (benefits, training)
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
Mental health care, unspecified
Self-injurious behaviors
Suicide prevention
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
Adoption Assistance Program, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.
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
Filed Pro Se No
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
Filing Year 1988
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
Date: Summer 2009
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School Faculty)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:88-cv-5599 (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/30/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion (715 F.Supp. 1387) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/30/1989
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion (128 F.R.D. 659) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/1989
Opinion (7th Cir.) (984 F.2d 196)
CW-IL-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/14/1993
Supreme Court Opinion (denying cert.) (508 U.S. 960)
CW-IL-0003-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/07/1993
Source: Westlaw
DCFS Stung for Unkept Promises
CW-IL-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/02/1994
Source: Papers of Beth Harris
Memorandum Opinion (856 F.Supp. 1285) (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/02/1994
Source: Westlaw
Consent Decree (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/1999
Settlement Agreement (attorney fees and costs) [ECF# 448]
CW-IL-0003-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/09/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supplemental Order to Enforce Consent Decree [ECF# 461] (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion for Entry of Order Approving Implementation Plan [ECF# 465]
CW-IL-0003-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 468] (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 507] (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/20/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Regarding Communications Plan for Implementation Plan [ECF# 530] (N.D. Ill.)
CW-IL-0003-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/28/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended and Revised DCFS B.H. Implementation Plan [ECF# 531]
CW-IL-0003-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/28/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Alonso, Jorge Luis (N.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0013 | CW-IL-0003-0014 | CW-IL-0003-0015
Cudahy, Richard Dickson (Seventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Grady, John Francis (N.D. Ill.) show/hide docs
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
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brody, Michael L. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Dalenberg, Heidi (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0006 | CW-IL-0003-0007 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Gomez, Danielle Renee (Illinois) show/hide docs
Grippando, Thomas J. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Grossman, Harvey (Illinois) show/hide docs
Lippitz, Bradley H.W. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Mena, Yvonne E. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Murphy, Patrick Thomas (Illinois) show/hide docs
Nowaczewski, Jeanne L. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Turner, Lori Nicole (Illinois) show/hide docs
Wolf, Benjamin S. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0006 | CW-IL-0003-0007 | CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Baer, Kimberley K. (Iowa) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Getzendanner, Susan Christine O'Meara (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Golbert, Charles P. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Greenspan, Barbara Lynn (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0007 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Kenney, Mary Brigid (Illinois) show/hide docs
Lowder, Lee A. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Madigan, Lisa (Illinois) show/hide docs
Rascia, Ronald Anthony (Illinois) show/hide docs
Smith, Charles F. Jr. (Illinois) show/hide docs
Tchen, Christina M. (Illinois) show/hide docs
CW-IL-0003-0010 | CW-IL-0003-9000
Wiegand, Thomas J. (Illinois) show/hide docs

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