On May 6, 2017, The Family Defense Center’s Founder and Legal Director Diane Redleaf presented at TEDxUChicago. Her talk “When Can Parents Let Children Be Alone?” used the cases of Center client Natasha Felix and the Meitiv family to explain the flaws in existing child welfare laws that lead to misplaced charges of child neglect and a fear to let kids play alone.
“Does this policy distinguish between Natasha, the Meitivs, and a truly neglectful [parent]? If it doesn’t, it’s a bad policy,” Ms. Redleaf said.
The Center continues to advocate for the rights of families, and, if you would like to support this work, please donate here.
Every day we provide much-needed legal representation and advocacy for parents and caregivers who have become involved in the Illinois child welfare system, a system that we know is fraught with conflict over how best to serve and protect children and is in desperate need of reform.
The past few weeks have been tumultuous ones for the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS). Recent stories of tragic child deaths from the last few years have sparked inquiries into DCFS policies and investigators’ practices by the media and by the DCFS Office of Inspector General. This week, DCFS Director George Sheldon resigned.
In our role as an independent non-profit organization that works exclusively on DCFS matters, we unfortunately have a unique vantage point on the systemic failures. The fact that there have been nine DCFS agency directors in the last seven years makes reform difficult. The reality of trying to improve the system at a time when our state has not had a budget in almost two years makes reform feel impossible.
However, our organization exists in order to hold this system accountable and, at the same time, shape policy in a way that protects children by defending families who need help. While the State of Illinois and DCFS leaders are considering how to move forward, we will continue advocating for families, and working to keep them safe and strong. At the same time, we will continue pushing reform in any way that we can.
We have a vision of a state where the rights of families are respected, protected, and supported by a system that is just and fair, and everything we do here at The Family Defense Center is with that in mind.
Thank you for supporting the important work we do for Illinois families, which is needed now more than ever.
Check out the final part of the Windy City Times series about the child welfare system and its involvement with families with transgender youth. The article quotes Founder and Legal Director Diane Redleaf and 2016 Family Defender Honoree Kent Dean.
The Windy City Times wrote a three-part series about the child welfare system and its involvement with families with transgender youth. In the first of the series, Executive Director Rachel O’Konis Ruttenberg was quoted saying, “We always want to make sure that people’s Constitutional rights are being upheld, that decisions are not being made with discrimination as part of that process and that children are given the opportunity to remain with their parents or family caregivers whenever it is safe and possible for them to do so.”
The Southern Illinoisan explores what happens after a call is made to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services hotline. Executive Director Rachel O’Konis Ruttenberg is quoted saying that families “often just need help and support.”
The Family Defense Center is proud to be featured in The Chicago Bar Association Legal Aid Committee Selected Highlights 2016 alongside the excellent work of our fellow legal aid organizations. Read about our 2016 successes: our collaborative work for domestic violence survivors (page 5); our fight for justice for parents and caregivers unlawfully charged with “inadequate supervision” (page 9); and our policy victories regarding so-called “safety plans” (page 18).
Families Organizing for Child Welfare Justice Executive Director Suzanne Sellers and Family Defense Center Executive Director Diane Redleaf were featured on WBEZ’s Morning Shift on June 17, 2016. They discussed family reunification and the need for child welfare reform. Suzanne Sellers said, “The public may not know that most of the families involved in the child welfare system are just people who were trying to get by, people who needed some help. They are oftentimes punished instead of getting help.”
The Chicago Bar Association’s Legal Aid Committee compiled highlights from its members for 2015. The Family Defense Center’s work on an emergency rule class action suit and client Natasha Felix’s case are featured on page 14 of the booklet. The Center’s report on “When Can Parents Let Children Be Alone?” and the vague category of neglect called “inadequate supervision” are highlighted on page 18.