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Child Abuse Misreporting Cases In The Docket Of The Family Defense Center Print E-mail


1. A day care teacher followed the practice of other teachers in the center of giving back rubs to help the children fall asleep. The mother of a four-year-old told the day care center director that her daughter told her that the teacher had “touched” her daughter’s booty. The teacher was fired and forced out of his home for 11 months. A hearing eventually found the investigation to be “sloppy at best” for failing to interview other teachers to determine that abuse could not have occurred in the open classroom with 16 children and for failing to discover that the touching was a back rub.[2]


2. A school nurse called the Hotline on a mother because the 10-year-old child reported that she was required to cleanup after the family cat and was being forced to go into a dark basement that was locked. During the investigation, the child protection investigator failed to observe that the basement the child referred to was where the cat’s food and litter box were kept, and that there were no locks on its doors. The indicated finding was dropped after the mother filed her appeal and retained legal counsel.


3. After seeing cigarettes in a mother’s purse, a doctor directed hospital staff to make a Hotline call because of concern that a premature baby was being discharged home. In fact, the infant was fine in the home. The investigators failed to determine who smokes in the home, when they smoke, or the amount of smoke that is in the home when the baby is present. The baby was separated from the mother and father (against whom no allegations were made) for over a month. This case is under appeal currently.


4. A mother who had repeatedly tried to limit a father’s visits called the Hotline to stop her child from seeing his grandfather. Child protection investigators failed to learn that the grandfather was never alone with the child and they failed to consider the mother’s long history of reports against the father and his family. The indicated finding was dropped after the grandfather appealed.


5. A father who has a child with autism had been urged to use tactile contact with his son, including tickling. An anonymous train rider saw the father and reported concerns of sexual abuse to the conductor. A Hotline call was made and the father was not allowed to be unsupervised with his son during the ensuing investigation. Because his wife was in a wheelchair, this meant that the little boy could not go out to play or learn to ride his bike that summer as the family had planned. Eventually the call was unfounded.[3]


6. A 9-year-old took her 1-year-old sister to play in a nearby park while her mother was making dinner. The family lived in a tight-knit religious community. On their way to the park, an anonymous woman stopped the children, forced them to return home, and then called the Hotline. DCFS investigated the report and though it was initially indicated, the mother ultimately prevailed in her efforts to have the finding of neglect expunged on the basis that the finding was clearly erroneous.


7. A father was reported for sexual abuse of his daughter by an anonymous neighbor who claimed to see a sexual act through her window. The father was forced to leave the home during the investigation, under threats that if he did not do so the child would be taken from him and placed into foster care. The 8-year-old child did not claim to have ever been abused and it is likely that if the neighbor truly witnessed any sexual act at all, it was between the father and the mother, who is also very small. [4]


8. After being kicked out of her home by her mother in the middle of winter, a 15-year-old girl and her 18-year-old boyfriend were taken in by the mother’s estranged husband (step-father to the girl). The 18-year-old boyfriend severely beat the 15-year-old girl, causing an emergency room doctor to call the Hotline. Though there was never any suspicion that the estranged husband mistreated his 15-year-old step-daughter in any way, DCFS indicated the step-father for “sexual penetration”—a 50-year registered finding—not because of any allegation that he ever sexually abused the girl but because he allowed her to live in his home with her boyfriend. This finding was reversed after a full appeal.


9. After the police came to the home to do a well-being check based upon a concerned call from a friend, a mother was beaten by her husband while their 1-year-old daughter was asleep in the next room. Unbeknownst to the husband, the police had stayed outside of the home and heard the beating. The police called the Hotline and both the husband and the mother (who was the victim of the underlying domestic violence incident) were “indicated” for putting the child at risk. DCFS also threatened the mother with removal of the child from her care due solely to her own status as a domestic violence victim. The finding against the mother was overturned after a full appeal.


10. A neighbor heard pounding on a door and saw the ex-boyfriend of her neighbor. The ex-boyfriend had been the subject of a prior order of protection the mother had secured. The mother renewed her order of protection after the ex-boyfriend came to her home unexpectedly. The neighbor made a Hotline call against the mother and the child protection investigator indicated the case for risk of harm caused by the mother. The indicated finding was reversed after a full appeal.


11. A small bleed was discovered just under the scalp of a 3-month-old baby girl. The hospital called the Hotline but the doctors later realized that it was unlikely that the bleed was due to abuse or neglect. The doctor who made the Hotline call regretted having made the call but cannot undo the damage the call caused: DCFS forced the family to separate for over a month despite the fact that the mother, who was a highly-regarded labor and delivery nurse, was breastfeeding the infant. Because the family had no relatives nearby who could stay with the baby in the family home during the investigation, for a period of several weeks the parents were compelled to live 3 hours away from their infant daughter. The investigation concluded with a finding of abuse by an “unknown perpetrator,” which is a final determination that cannot be appealed even though several doctors believe no abuse occurred.


12. A toddler who was learning to walk fell and was then found to have a wrist fracture. An emergency room doctor, without consulting any orthopedist, made a Hotline call. Later, several orthopedists opined that abuse was an implausible explanation because the only way to the wrist fracture could have occurred was through a commonplace fall. The child was taken from both parents involuntarily and placed in temporary custody of DCFS. After a nearly four-month separation, the State’s Attorney voluntarily dismissed the case after child abuse experts agreed with the orthopedists that abuse was not a plausible explanation for the fracture.


13. A mother initiated therapy in order to address varying life issues, including her strained marriage and her concern that she was drinking too much alcohol. During the second meeting with the therapist, the mother was asked whether she has ever driven with the children after consuming alcohol. Thinking that the question was being asked for treatment purposes, the mother replied truthfully: on Easter Sunday, she had consumed alcohol during the day and then subsequently driven a car with her children. Without gathering any additional details, the therapist called the Hotline and DCFS indicated the mother for neglecting her children. At the ensuing hearing, it became apparent that the moderate consumption of alcohol occurred several hours before the mother drove the car and that the many family members who observed the mother that day did not feel that she was at all intoxicated or impaired. The indicated finding was expunged after the hearing.


14. A mother went to the police after her ex-boyfriend made a verbal threat while the mother was holding their 9-month-old daughter. The police called the Hotline and though the mother obtained an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend and kicked him out of her home, DCFS indicated a finding of neglect against the mother. When the ex-boyfriend later came to the home intimidating the mother, she was scared to call the police for fear that she would again be reported to DCFS. After a full hearing, the indicated finding against the mother was reversed.


15. After a new mother voluntarily checked herself into the hospital to have her medication levels checked, a hospital social worker called the Hotline because the mother self-reported feelings of being overwhelmed by her new baby and admitted that there was an occasion in the past where she felt like shaking him due to his crying. Though the mother never acted on these feelings—instead, she responsibly sought appropriate medical attention—and though these feelings dissipated entirely once her medication was adjusted, DCFS took the child into protective custody. At the initial court hearing, the court returned the infant to the legal custody of his mother following the supportive testimony of a psychiatrist who stated she did not have concerns about the mother’s ability to safely care for her son.


16. The ex-wife of a father called the Hotline alleging that their 11-year-old daughter had reported that the father kissed the daughter “up her arm” in a playful way. Throughout the investigation, the daughter told multiple doctors and social workers that her father had never touched her genitals. However, DCFS indicated the father after the daughter added more statements, which themselves were internally inconsistent and suspicious for being the product of coaching by the ex-wife, that her father had abused her. After a full hearing, DCFS expunged the finding, concluding that the ex-wife was not credible, but while the investigation and hearing were proceeding, the father was denied all contact with his daughter.







[1] Three of these cases are ones that were presented to the federal court in proceedings in 2002 in Dupuy v. Samuels, challenging the coercive imposition of “safety plans” based on mere suspicion without evidence, under which parents and children were forced out of their homes during an investigation. In all of these cases, the Hotline calls were ultimately deemed unfounded but the families suffered a separation varying in length from one week to over a year.

[2] This case was one of the reported cases in Dupuy v. Samuels, 462 F. 2d at 886.

[3] This case was also reported in Dupuy v. Samuels, 462 F. 2d at 873.

[4] Reported at 462 F. Supp. 2d 880-881.


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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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