DCFS threats to take children ruled illegal
By Ofelia Casillas and Matt O’Connor
Chicago Tribune staff reporters – March 15, 2005
A federal judge ruled that Illinois families were deprived of their constitutional rights when state child welfare officials threatened to separate parents from their children during abuse investigations.
In a decision made public Monday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer found “ample evidence” that families suffered emotional and psychological injuries because the separations lasted “for more than a brief or temporary period.”
….In her decision, Pallmeyer essentially held that DCFS had gone too far in protecting children and had eroded the constitutional rights of parents.
The safety plans are supposedly voluntary agreements by parents in most cases to leave their home indefinitely or stay under constant supervision after investigations into child abuse or neglect are launched, often based on tips to DCFS.
But most of the families who testified at a 22- day hearing in 2002 and 2003 said the investigators threatened to take away their children unless they agreed to the safety plans.
“When an investigator expressly or implicitly conveys that failure to accept a plan will result in the removal of the children for more than a brief or temporary period of time, it constitutes a threat sufficient to deem the family’s agreement coerced, and to implicate due process rights,” Pallmeyer wrote in the 59-page opinion.
“Significantly, [DCFS] has not identified a single family that, faced with such an express or implied threat of protective custody, chose to reject the plan,” the judge said. They don’t know they can. And you can be sure of the retribution for doing so.
Pallmeyer gave DCFS 60 days to develop constitutionally adequate procedures” for families to contest the safety plans.
Diane Redleaf, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said about 10 families were involved in the court case, but that Pallmeyer’s decision would affect thousands of families who agree to safety plans each year.
“Instead of protecting children, the state is actually destroying families and hurting children,” Redleaf said.
Diane Jackson, a DCFS spokeswoman, said Pallmeyer’s review of safety plans was limited to 2002 and before and didn’t consider changes since then.
“We have definitely made changes,” said Jackson, declining to be more specific until DCFS can report to Pallmeyer. They probably dotted an “i” somewhere.
…`No real due process’ Actually, there’s no due process whatsoever.
“It’s abridging both the children’s and the parents’ rights to have that amorphous safety plan that could go on forever,” he said. “There is no real due process. There is no [procedure] to complain unless you have some money to hire a lawyer.” Full Story
Remember, this was in 2005. Numerous cases are going to Supreme Courts for the same decision. Why? It’s already been decided. Coercing parent to sign “volunteer safety plans” IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. As well as everything else CPS does is without CONSTITUTIONAL DUE PROCESS.