“Silence allows perpetrators to continue their abuse on children.”
150 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 800
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: 844-4KIDLAW (454-3529); 754-888-KIDS (5437)
Illinois’s history is blemished with failures in the child welfare system including over-crowding, high case management ratios, and other systemic failures that cause harm to foster children. In 1988, a landmark class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all children that have been or will be in the custody of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). These children, the Plaintiffs, came into custody of the government because they were alleged victims of abuse or neglect or needed care and protection. These kids suffered serious harm to their mental health and development because they were not placed in safe and stable homes. In one instance, B.H., a class representative and honor student, had faked a suicide attempt to secure a new living arrangement following at least 10 prior unsuccessful placements. In another instance, an eight-year-old child was raped by two twelve-year-olds at a shelter after authorities failed to respond to repeated reports that the facility was unable to protect the children residing there.
The Plaintiffs’ claimed that the state agency violated their rights under 42 USC § 1983 and the Federal Adoption Assistance & Child Welfare Act. In response, in 1991, the parties entered into a consent decree with the Defendant agreeing to hire additional staff to investigate child abuse. The Court appointed a panel of experts to monitor progress and entered an implementation plan. The plan aims to satisfy six different criteria of improving the lives of children in foster care that match those currently utilized by the federal government in the Child and Family Service Review (“CFSR”) process, which are: (1) Maltreatment in Care, (2) Permanency in 12 months, (3) Permanency in 12-23 months, (4) Permanency in 24+ months, (5) Placement Stability, and (6) Re-entry into Foster Care.
In 2018, the Plaintiffs requested the Court enforce the Consent Decree so that safety concerns of children residing at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital could be addressed. An investigation into the psychiatric hospitals of Illinois concluded that children reside in these facilities for weeks to months after they are ready for release and medically cleared for discharge, but with nowhere to go. This “inhumane” practice is known as “beyond medical necessity” or BMN. According to the suit subsequently filed by Cook County’s Public Guardian, BMN costs taxpayers more than $125,000 a month. Between 2015 through 2017, more than 800 foster children were confined to hospitals longer than necessary – read more here. Children abandoned in psychiatric wards BMN suffer depression, anger, and fear, with no or insufficient schooling, access to outdoors or recreational activities, or visits with friends or family. BMN is the worst type of placement for these vulnerable children’s physical and emotional well-being. In 2019, nearly thirty years after the parties entered into the Consent Decree, the Expert Panel’s submission Addressing the Sixth Triannual Interim Report on the Implementation Plan – view document here – found that not only have these government services not improved, but recently, the situation has actually gotten worse. The Panel found that the Illinois system has stabilized at a median length of stay that is the longest in the nation. In other words, children in Illinois are in foster care longer than children in foster care in any other state. Sadly, these tragedies and failures continue today. Read more.
Justice for Kids Business Unit Leader Howard Talenfeld was mentored by former Illinois Secretary Greg Coler and his leadership team: Peter Digre, Michael Powers, and Paul Freeland. Under Coler’s administration, Illinois improved its system from “terrible to laudable.” Justice for Kids attorneys, as part of Kelley Kronenberg, have expanded to Chicago, Illinois and are now accepting cases and available to protect abused, neglected and injured children.
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