Legal Aid Committee Selected Highlights 2016

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).


Parents And Kids Torn Asunder, Then Reunified

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.”


Legal Aid Committee Selected Highlights 2015

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.


“Verdict Reversed: Mom Not Guilty of Neglect for Letting Kids Play in Park”

Published on December 17, 2015 by Lenore Skenazy on’s Hit & Run Blog

Remember the mom put on Illinois Child Abuse Registry for letting her kids, ages 11, 9, and 5, play at the park just outside her house?

The state’s appellate court has thrown out the “child neglect citation” against her, after a mere two-and-a-half-year battle with the Department of Child and Family Services. She was helped by the scrappy, brilliant Family Defense Center in Chicago.

Click to read the full post on’s Hit & Run Blog

After More Than Two Years, Chicago Mother Natasha Felix is Cleared of Neglect Charges

Felix had been indicated for “inadequate supervision” by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for allowing her three children, the oldest 11, to play in the park next door

Chicago, December 17, 2015 – In an order entered December 11, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court vacated Natasha Felix’s case, ordering the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to expunge her record. As of December 16, 2015, her record was expunged.

Felix had been labeled a child neglecter for allowing her children, ages 11, 9 and 5, to play in a park next to her house for about 30 to 40 minutes, while she checked on them regularly from a window, in July of 2013. A preschool teacher who was at the park with her class called the DCFS hotline and the state began investigating Felix for neglect, ultimately finding her neglectful under a vague category called “inadequate supervision.” As the case developed, DCFS defended its decision on the ground that the eldest boy could not watch the others because he had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No medical or psychological testimony was presented by DCFS to support that conclusion, however. Read more

“Mom did not neglect sons by letting them play outside, state agrees after legal battle”

Published on December 16, 2015, by Martha Neil of the American Bar Association Journal

A Chicago mother initially found to have neglected her three children by allowing them to play in a park next to their home in 2013 has been cleared with the help of a major corporate law firm.

An Illinois appeals court dismissed the case Monday after the state Department of Children and Family Services reversed course and agreed that Natasha Felix had done nothing wrong, according to CBS Chicago and the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.).

At issue was an “inadequate supervision” standard that critics have called too vague. A state statute defines inadequate supervision as involving “a child under the age of 14 whose parent … leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable amount of time, without regard for the mental or physical health or safety of the minor,” the Tribune reports.

Click to read the full story in the American Bar Association Journal