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Judge denies attempt to force DCFS to allow parents in-person visits

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

* Background is here if you need it. Sun-Times

Parents of children in protective custody lost a legal fight that sought to compel the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to reinstate in-person visitation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Caroline Moreland Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit filed by the public defender’s office on behalf of four mothers who said their rights to equal protection under the Constitution were being violated by the indefinite suspension of in-person visits with their children.

Moreland pointed in her ruling that all the plaintiffs had pending emergency motions in their individual cases to deal with visitation.

The court also sided with DCFS, saying the Child Protection Act allows state officials the right to immediately suspend the visits in the interest of a child’s health and well-being.


“In this matter the court is mindful of the concerns for the Plaintiffs’ ability to have in person visitations with their children,” Moreland wrote in her order. “These parents are named parties with open pending abuse and/or neglect cases before the Child Custody Court. That court and those judges continue to address the very issues presented by this case. This court concludes that that forum is the appropriate one for plaintiffs’ grievances.” […]

In a statement, Campanelli said she was disappointed by the ruling. She said she’s weighing her options about a possible appeal, but plans to “continue to challenge this unjust policy.”

“For the past two and a half months, parents, children, and siblings have been denied their right to see each other,” Campanelli said. “To deny them visitation is to deny them basic human dignity and will have serious lasting impacts on families. This decision is contrary to the law and common sense.”

Attorneys representing DCFS and the Cook County public guardian at a hearing last week accused the public defender of “forum shopping” and said the case should be tossed out due to the pending juvenile court cases.

* Chronicle of Social Change

Public Guardian Charles Golbert said the public defenders were “forum shopping” by suing the state in Moreland’s court, as opposed to in juvenile court where the cases were pending. In the case of each parent named in the motion, he said, there was a pending date in late May or early June to consider a request to mandate in-person visits.

But the juvenile court had repeatedly delayed those hearings amid the statewide stay-at-home order and were likely to do so again, [Deputy Public Defender Aaron Goldstein] said. “The motions were not substantively denied, but they were not heard.”

Golbert called it “rank speculation” that the juvenile court would not meet the next scheduled hearings, and Moreland agreed with the children’s attorney, finding that with scheduled court dates on all four cases, “there need not be duplicative litigation on these issues.”

Monday, as Moreland finished her opinion, the Cook County juvenile court delayed all upcoming hearings for 30 days, according to Goldstein.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - AD - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:07 am:

    Parents not allowed to see their children, but Walmart is filled with hundreds. I get the reasoning, but man this is tough.

  2. - Former DCFS - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:18 am:

    No longer employed by DCFS, so no stake in this outcome. That being said, if the parents have someone they want to blame, it should be the Cook County Juvenile Court for not finding a way to hear the motions on the merits. The fact is the Chancery court managed to hear the TRO motion, so it is clearly doable.

  3. - Downstate Illinois - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:19 am:

    But hey, they can still get an abortion.

  4. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:25 am:

    ===I get the reasoning, but man this is tough===

    Although it’s not meant to be punitive, perhaps it will be an incentive for these parents to stop neglecting/abusing their kids.

  5. - So Blue - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:28 am:


    But hey, they should not have abused or neglected their children.

  6. - Sorry - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:35 am:

    In this state you have to mess up in a serious, serious way for DCFS to take your kids. My sympathy for these “parents” is limited.

  7. - Former DCFS - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 10:40 am:

    == In this state you have to mess up in a serious, serious way for DCFS to take your kids. ==

    As of a few years ago (I haven’t looked at more recent statistics) Illinois had the lowest or 2nd lowest foster care intake rate per capita in the country, flip flopping the top spot with Virginia every now and then.

    Within the state of Illinois, the Cook County judicial circuit has the lowest per capita intake rate of any of the circuits.

    This isn’t evidence about these specific parents, obviously, nor does it mean that visits shouldn’t be happening (because they obviously should, in the safest manner possible, which may be online).

  8. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    Why not just have Zoom or other type of online meetings? These parents chose to abuse or neglect their children to the point that the state took the children and hasn’t given them back yet. That is not a common situation in IL (we do not willy-nilly take people’s children and we’re actually pretty good about not considering poverty in general to be neglect).

  9. - Former DCFS - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 11:06 am:

    == Why not just have Zoom or other type of online meetings? ==

    I believe that is what DCFS is doing.

    I didn’t read the filings, but according to the oral argument, the PD’s Office included an affidavit from I believe a child psychologist that stated that video conferencing is basically not a suitable substitute for in person visitation.

  10. - Anonymous - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 11:12 am:

    Is that the same Aaron Goldstein who defended Blago? If so, I;m not surprised by the outcome.

  11. - 17% Solution - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 11:27 am:

    ==But hey, they can still get an abortion..==
    How is this relevant to the subject matter of this thread?

  12. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 4:45 pm:

    I think suspending the in person visits was the right call and dismissing the lawsuit was the smart thing to do. Not only do you have caseworkers transporting multiple foster kids to visits on a frequent basis, increasing the chances of the worker being a super spreader, you’re talking about a high risk population. Not only are a lot of foster kids placed with elderly relatives, there’s a higher chance that parents work in lower wage essential businesses. Also, it’s a sad fact that African Americans are over represented in both the foster care population and the COVID population. All that combines to a high COVID risk if in person visits continued.

  13. - Familyvoice - Wednesday, May 20, 20 @ 11:59 pm:

    This suspended in-person visit is so very wrong. It could have been OKk as an emergency action until safe guides were in place. But Marc Smith put out the suspension letter and then forgot these children. He has traumatized thousands of children under the pretense of protection. Let Our Children Go! End the visit suspension now and end this child abuse.

  14. - Familyvoice - Thursday, May 21, 20 @ 12:05 am:

    Marc Smith suspended the in-person visits. Marc Smith needs to restore the in-person visits immediately. These kids can be taken to Wal-Mart and exposed to anyone except their parent. Am unfit parent that cannot have visits is decided on an individual basis.

  15. - All This - Thursday, May 21, 20 @ 8:03 am:

    “ These parents chose to abuse or neglect their children to the point that the state took the children and hasn’t given them back yet.“
    You don’t know this. Sometimes children are taken away when they are not abused and neglected. Children can be taken away just on an opinion or hearsay. Also while criminals have the right to free council, parents who may lose their children have to find a way to pay for their lawyers themselves. Some poor parents can’t do this. Civilized states extend free council to such parents. Not Illinois.

  16. - Familyvoice - Thursday, May 21, 20 @ 10:19 pm:

    All This - “You don’t know this. Sometimes children are taken away when they are not abused and neglected.” You are absolutely right. Children are taken that have not been abused or neglected all the time. If the agency has decided it is safe for the parents to visit then it should not be up to Marc Smith to override that. There could have been a safe COVID-19 solution. DCFS takes children for risk of harm all the time. This is not ‘risk of harm’. This is cold and absolute emotional and mental abuse by DCFS to this subset of Illinois children.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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