Family Defense

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Victim of domestic violence coerced by DCFS to separate from her toddler twins Print E-mail

"It is hard to imagine a more dysfunctional child welfare system than the one described in a federal lawsuit filed last week against the Illinois Department of Children Family Services, the Children’s Home + Aid, and 10 child welfare workers.

Rochelle Vermeulen, 29, of Romeoville and the mother of 15-month old twins, is claiming workers at both agencies used coercion, intimidation, and threats to separate her from her toddlers despite her claims of being a domestic violence victim."

Read the entire story by Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-times here.

On Tuesday, October 14, 2015 the Family Defense Center held a press conference regarding a recently-filed federal lawsuit on behalf of a mother of fifteen-month-old twins who had been coerced by DCFS to separate from her children despite her own status as a victim of domestic violence. The mother, her attorneys Diane Redleaf and Sara Gilloon, and advocates on behalf of victims of domestic violence gathered at the 70 E. Lake Street Conference Room to issue statements regarding the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services' illegal and unjust victimization of this mother.

If you are a victim of domestic violence and a resident of Illinois, please click here to find resources in your county.

I Felt Like a Criminal: The Pressure to Become a Helicopter Parent Print E-mail

This piece, written by Rebecca Ruiz, is part of Mashable Spotlight, which presents in-depth looks at the people, concepts and issues shaping our digital world:

In 2011, Lilia Gonzalez* nearly lost her three young children. She considered herself a loving, attentive mother, but one day she made a seemingly harmless mistake that turned into a two-year battle to convince the state of Illinois that she hadn’t — and wouldn’t — maliciously neglect her children.

The ordeal began on a June morning when Gonzalez, then 36, awoke at 7:30 a.m., startled and groggy. Her 16-month-old son had been sick, and Gonzalez slept fitfully; her husband left earlier to start the first of his two jobs. Like most parents, Gonzalez’s mind immediately settled on the day’s many tasks, including taking the children to walk her four-year-old son to the bus stop. And that’s when the panic surged — she had overslept and the bus had already departed.

As her eight-year-old daughter dressed for school, Gonzalez and her son rushed down the stairs from their third-floor apartment in Schaumburg, Illinois, and looked for the bus. Seeing an empty street, Gonzalez quickly decided to drive the two miles to school.

When she returned home after a 20-minute absence, Gonzalez found her toddler son watching television in bed and her daughter ready to attend school. She regretted impulsively leaving them alone, but felt grateful nothing tragic had happened.

The next day, Gonzalez mentioned the incident to her therapist, a clinic student who helped treat her for depression. “I did something probably stupid,” Gonzalez recalls saying. Her therapist remained silent then, but a few hours later, Gonzalez’s phone rang.

“I talked to my supervisor,” her therapist said, “and I explained to her what you just told me, and we have to call [Department of Children and Family Services].” Gonzalez hadn’t heard of the child welfare agency, but was terrified.

That phone call marked the beginning of Gonzalez’s “nightmare.” With a single offhand comment, she found herself at the mercy of cultural, social and legal forces that increasingly define parenting as a superhuman feat of constant monitoring. Children, according to this perspective, are only ever truly safe from harm when at their parents’ side.

Click here to read the rest of Lilia's story on Mashable.

DCFS's Real Crime? Breaking Up Families Print E-mail

Read Executive Director Diane Redleaf's opinion piece published in the Chicago Sun-Times on November 24, 2013 discussing how improved policies and practices within the Department of Children and Family Services would allow investigators to focus precious resources on children who are truly at risk of abuse or neglect while still allowing suitable parents to raise their own children without undue intervention from the child welfare system.

Click here to read the full article pdf button

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The Family Defense Center is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Notice (12/4/2014): The Family Defense Center is hiring a Deputy Executive Director. The Deputy Executive Director will direct, administer, and coordinate the internal operations of the organization in accordance with policies, goals, and objectives established by the Executive Director and the Board of Directors. Please click here to read more about the position and learn about the application process.


Notice to all persons located in the state of Illinois who were:

A. Investigated or indicated for neglect under Allegation 60 from July 13, 2012 through December 31, 2013; 


B. Were indicated for neglect under Allegation 60 from May 31, 2014 through June 11, 2014. 

A class action lawsuit, entitled Ashley M., et al. v. Ill. Dep’t of Children & Family Servs., et al., No. 2013 CH 20278, is now pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division, Cook County, Illinois.

Please click here to read the full notice of this proposed settlement and fairness hearing.


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