We represent parents and families of all kinds who have one thing in common: they deserve fair treatment and due process in the child welfare system. Below are some of our clients' stories.Click on the image or title to read each client's full story.
The Family Defense Center is proud of our role in helping fathers overcome misplaced allegations made by the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS). In 2015 and 2016, we exonerated many fathers, as well as mothers, and helped them reestablish or maintain relationships with their children that DCFS action had previously threatened to end or limit.
The Family Defense Center helped Leonard W. and his three children, ages 10 and 6 (twins), after their family summer trip to Montana last summer turned into an extension of Leonard’s custody battle with his ex-wife.
Client Who Dedicates Herself to Care of At-Risk Children and Youth Vindicated Following Excellent Pro Bono Representation
Michelle P. is the kind of foster mother and adoptive mother our child welfare system needs to have in greater supply. But sadly, Michelle’s attentive care and advocacy for her kids got her into the sort of trouble no parent should have to face—and never should have to face without counsel. When her pre-teen ward S. needed psychiatric care after he experienced bullying at school, Michelle made sure he saw therapists and counselors to treat his depression, even though she had a lot on her plate, including her own wedding and fending off legal actions seeking to discharge her from her role as S.’s guardian.
Family’s 15-Week Nightmare, After DCFS Jumps to Unsupportable Abuse Conclusions, Leads to State Backing Down From Trial Against Loving Parents
In the early afternoon of February 3, “Cassie” S., mother of 13 month-old “Hannah” and 8-year-old “Maya,” first noticed after Hannah got down from her high chair that the toddler wasn’t putting weight on her left leg. Thinking at first that perhaps Hannah’s leg had just fallen asleep, Cassie’s mother put Hannah down for her nap while Cassie left for her nursing school class, calling her husband “Nate” to let him know that she was watching to see if something was wrong with Hannah’s leg. When Hannah continued not to use the leg after waking up, Cassie and Nate called their pediatrician, who advised them to give her Tylenol, keep an eye on her, and bring her to an appointment the next day.
Natasha F. did not expect that allowing her kids to enjoy a summer afternoon would lead to years of strife and an unfair child neglect label against her. On July 29, 2013, Natasha’s three boys were playing outside with their cousin. Natasha’s children were 11, 9, and 5 years old, respectively, and their cousin was 9. The nine-year-old child’s mother is a close friend of Natasha’s, and the women were inside with a third friend, regularly checking on their children through the window. The four children were playing in a park, located in the lot adjacent to the apartment, and Natasha had left her oldest child in charge. Unfortunately, someone assumed they were completely unsupervised and called the DCFS Hotline.
Linda’s* case began in December 2013 when Chicago police responded to a neighbor’s call regarding what they thought was a domestic dispute. Police arrived and saw Linda, a mother who was in the middle of a bipolar manic episode, clutching her son, Tom*. The episode occurred after Linda had undergone an extremely stressful day at her job in a day care center and following medication changes by her doctors. Linda and her boyfriend had been unable to reach relatives for help.
Zoe’s ordeal began when her mother Amy picked her up from her day care provider’s home at the end of the day. Zoe’s caregiver lifted Zoe to a standing position and reported hearing a “crack.” Concerned after Zoe’s apparent pain when using her arm did not go away after a short while, Amy and her husband Rafael took Zoe to a leading Chicago-area children’s hospital that same evening. While there was a break on the two bones of Zoe’s forearm, nothing seemed serious or suspicious and Amy and Rafael were simply told to remain watchful. The next day, however, Amy and Rafael lost custody and control of their daughter.
Breastfeeding decisions are both personal and important to the well-being of a child. So when DCFS “indicated” a loving mother allegedly causing her son’s “failure to thrive” due in significant part to a decision the mother and her husband had made to breastfeed their infant son, the Family Defense Center decided to represent the mother to clear her name. It took several months and a full evidentiary hearing, but finally justice was served: our client was exonerated and her parenting decisions were validated.
On May 24, 2011, Jeanelle H. came home to a message on her answering machine that she had to listen to twice to believe. A Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) investigator called to say the state’s investigation was complete and that Jeanelle had been “indicated” as a child neglector. Jeanelle was devastated. The state had decided to indicate her under the vague charge that she had placed her daughter in an “environmentally injurious” situation despite never even interviewing Jeanelle about the accusation. As a result, her career as a high school teacher and her ability to support herself and her daughter Valerie* were suddenly in serious jeopardy.
When Renee’s grandchildren were removed from her daughter’s care due to concerns about her daughter’s mental health, Renee enthusiastically stepped in to provide a home for them. But problems in her past, long overcome, raised doubts about her suitability to parent. In order to have her grandchildren live with her, Renee had to tackle a series of bureaucratic obstacles with the help of the FDC.
Meredith and Ed spent only four days with their newborn son, Elijah, before he was torn away from them by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and placed in an emergency shelter. Despite months of anticipation and preparation to welcome their baby boy into their home, Meredith and Ed returned home without him. Elijah’s crib and the other newborn necessities stood as reminders of the baby’s absence. The parents wondered: Was he being well cared for? How could strangers care for him better than his own loving parents?
Rita, a recent immigrant from Nigeria, was in the bathroom when she heard her 13-month-old daughter Rachel crying. A little later, when she and her husband noticed their daughter was limping, they did what any concerned and good parents would do: they promptly sought medical attention for their child. When Rita could not explain exactly how the leg injury occurred, medical staff called the DCFS Hotline.
Ashley worked hard caring for her toddler Alexis while attending classes full-time in the Rockford area to earn her college degree. She balanced her academic goals with her responsibilities as a mother well, despite the troubles she faced from her sometimes violent live-in boyfriend. However, the issues escalated out of control in November of 2009.
When Ethan was born last August after Brenda’s strenuous 53.5 hours of labor, the new parents Brenda and George were just beginning to savor the joys of parenting. Unfortunately, Brenda and George found their lives turned upside down after the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a misplaced Hotline call when Ethan was just two weeks old.
Stephanie P. interned for a juvenile court judge while she was in law school and worked to improve policies related to domestic violence and child protection. As a lawyer applying for jobs in the area of child advocacy and a young mother herself, Stephanie never thought she’d be the victim of a wrongful claim of child abuse. Motherhood is the job in which Stephanie takes the most pride of all, and her daughter A., pictured here, is the happiest, bubbliest toddler one can imagine. No one in his or her right mind would suspect abuse – and there never was any abuse to suspect. In fact, the case of abuse that DCFS filed with the juvenile court would have been a comedy of errors if it hadn’t been so tragic.
Asia S. was just 17 years old when her life was turned upside-down by a misplaced accusation against her concerning an injury to her toddler, N., who was 7 months old at the time. Asia lived with her own mother and was doing well in school, all while trying to be the best mother she could be. Teachers and friends all attested to Asia’s dedication to her child and her attentiveness to her needs but a 10-second episode—a freak accident while Asia’s head was turned—changed Asia and N.’s life and threatened to derail their hopes for the future.
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Thank you for all your help in the DCFS case involving my daughter. We had no idea what was involved, what the process was, the implications of the potential case on my daughter's career and the need for a Dupuy letter and, finally, how to find out why and how to follow-up to get a final letter from DCFS showing the case was "unfounded."
I have had a successful nursing career for almost eight years and love caring for people but most of all love caring for my daughter and to have DCFS "called on us" when we did nothing wrong was such a shattering life experience. Calling your office was the best thing we could have done! You gave us support and guidance in a time when it was hard to find our way. We never knew of the problems with the system until we were involved personally with it.
So many times, in my opinion, the law is twisted around to prosecute victimless crimes and people that shouldn't be imprisoned, or defends those who should. Your legal talents have rights a wrong, and relieved so much anxiety for my family.
Thank you so much for everything you did for our family, your dedication to help families like us is simply exceptional and outstanding. We forever will be grateful, because we know without you this would of taken a different route, much harder and more painful.