DCFS VIOLATES PARENTAL RIGHTS DURING COVID
- Have your children been in the foster care system at any time since March 25, 2020 to present?
- Were you prevented from in-person visits with your children at any time in 2020, due to a DCFS policy?
- Has a caseworker told you that you could only see your children via video chat, due to COVID-19?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be entitled to compensation. Crossroad Legal is investigating allegations that Illinois' acting director of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) exceeded his legal authority under state and federal law when creating a blanket ban on in-person visitation on March 25, 2020. While the issue remains hotly contested, an increasing number of Illinois parents and children involved in the DCFS system are alleging that their due process and fundamental parenting rights were violated by Governor Pritzker's acting director, Mark Smith.
What the Suit is About?
When children are removed from their homes by DCFS, parents have to fight to get them back. Often, allegations are very weak. In fact, many caseworkers will actively engage in false testimony, fabricate issues, and plant evidence just to get children away from parents who may have nothing wrong with them. But even if a child is properly removed from a parent, that parent still maintains a constitutional right to see their children unless or until a judge terminates those rights.
On March 25, 2020, the Acting Director of the agency, Mark Smith, released a detailed policy, which directed caseworkers throughout the state to suspend ALL in-person visitation between parents and their children in state custody. There was no allowance for unique factors, no reliance on judicial findings, and no due process through which a parent or their child could challenge the policy. There was no comment period for the public to weigh in. In short, the acting director of DCFS unilaterally decided that none of the more than 20,000 children in foster care would be permitted to see their parents in-person.
Why this is a Problem?
When a government agency seeks to limit or infringe upon a fundamental right, such as parental rights, such rules, regulations and laws must be narrowly tailored. This means the government must use the least restrictive methods possible to achieve their goal. Further, the rule or law must not be so overly broad that it affects more people than designed to protect. Parents in this class are alleging the acting director of DCFS violated their constitutional rights in the following specific ways:
- Violated due process by making the rule a blanket ban without any means for challenging the policy
- Violated fundamental civil rights by misapplying the Governor's Executive Orders, thus unlawfully keeping parents from in-person visitation with their children
- Acted outside of the agency's legal authority to create emergency orders lasting no more than 30 days
Crossroad Legal is still investigating these allegations. If the matter proceeds to litigation, attorneys will be seeking the reasonable economic value associated with losing significant physical and in-person time with minor children. This is not a static number that can be easily assessed the way that lost income or property damage can be. Instead, it is highly likely that these matters will proceed to multiple trials, requiring Illinois juries to decide what that value is.
How to Join the Cause
There is no cost and no obligation to sign up. If you think that you or someone you know may have been affected by DCFS's blanket COVID-19 policy banning visitation during 2020, then contact Crossroad Legal today. Call (618) 515-5555 or complete a form online and someone will be in touch to discuss. All cases are being handled on a strictly contingency basis. This means that our office only gets paid if we succeed in holding the state accountable and obtaining compensation for clients. Because this is a unique case of first impression, you are encouraged to call as soon as possible. Time may be limited.