Stop Bashing the Parents

Stop Bashing the Parents

Executive Director Diane Redleaf’s Op-Ed in the Chicago Sun-Times on January 15, 2015

There has been a child welfare system crisis every decade in Illinois since the 1970s. The current focus on what ails the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is, at last, about the kids, not their presumably awful parents. That’s fortunate, because the only way to change the child welfare system, including its understaffed, yet expensive, residential care component, is to stop blaming the parents and start working with them constructively to keep families together.

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Domestic Violence Victim Coerced by DCFS

“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 online 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.

Julie Q. Rule Changes: The Long Road to Ending the Overcharging “Environment Injurious” Neglect Claims

Dear Friends and Clients of the Family Defense Center:

June 11, 2014, was a wonderful day for the Family Defense Center and for tens of thousands of parents and caregivers in Illinois.  There were no parades, but there should have been.  That is because on June 11, 2014, a lawful rule finally went into effect that stops DCFS from claiming innocent parents—including those who are victims of domestic violence themselves or have mental health conditions they are treating—are guilty of child neglect.  Indeed now, for the first time, DCFS rules proclaim that being a victim of domestic violence is presumptively NOT child neglect.  In order to determine that any person has created an “environment injurious,” DCFS rules now require a more stringent showing that a parent or caregiver “blatantly disregarded” their duty of care towards the child by failing to exercise “reasonable precautionary measures.”   While this rule affects tens of thousands of Illinois families each year, the impact is especially significant for persons with mental health diagnoses, families with a family member with a substance abuse issue (including persons in recovery), and mothers who are domestic violence victims, for these are the individuals who so commonly were brought into the wide DCFS net under the old rule defining “environment injurious” in a matter that operated as an unlawful “catch all.”  (Please see Issue 15 and Issue 16 of The Family Defender for additional details on the Julie Q. and Ashley M. cases summarized here).

The rule that DCFS adopted is one the Family Defense Center had fought for long and hard.  In fact, the fight to secure exoneration for family members who were wrongly labeled child neglectors for creating a supposed “environment injurious” just because of who they are—and not because of anything neglectful they had done—started way back in April 2009, when a mother named Julie Q. sought our help. To us, it was clear that Julie had been unfairly targeted for child neglect when there was no case against her at all, just a lot of innuendo coming from an embittered ex-spouse.

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DCFS Notice Regarding Julie Q. v. DCFS – Frequently Asked Questions

If you have received a recent letter from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services referring to a recent decision from the Illinois Supreme Court named Julie Q. v. Ill. Dep’t of Children and Family Servs., this information is for you.   The letter (which we have explained here) was sent to notify you that your name has now been removed from the Illinois State Central Register because of the Illinois Supreme Court Decision that DCFS did not have the right to name you as a perpetrator of neglect due to an “environment injurious.” Julie Q. is a Family Defense Center case and we advise and represent many individuals who, like Julie Q., are wrongly accused of neglect. The information below provides general answers to Frequently Asked Questions that we have been asked by many people who have gotten these “Julie Q.” letters. The information provided in this FAQ is general information only and is not to be considered as legal advice in any individual case or legal matter.

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Family Defender Issue 7: Spring 2009

Click here to read issue #7 in PDF (Spring 2009)

In this issue: FDC Legislative Initiative Sails Through Committees, Awaits General Assembly Ratification

Letter from the Executive Director, page 3

Family Defense News Briefs, page 4

Can You Believe This?, page 9


What Is “Mothers’ Defense?, page 5

Meet Professor Dorothy Roberts, page 5

Case Raises Troubling Issues of Gender-Bias and Improper State Intervention, page 6

Parent Coaching: A Family-Centered Approach, page 7

Profile of a PCI Parent Coach, page 7

Family Defender Issue 5: Fall 2008

Click here to read Issue #5 in PDF (Fall 2008)

In this issue: In Wake of Cert Denial, FDC Focuses on Legislation and Policy

Family Defense Briefs, page 2

Message from the Executive Director, back page


Is DCFS Policy and Practice Fair to Domestic Violence Victims? page 3

If It Hadn’t Happened to and FDC Client Family, We Wouldn’t Believe it! page 7

FDC Parent Empowerment Program Plans Consumer Evaluation Project, page 8

Some Tips on Working Best with Your Lawyer, page 9

Family Defender Issue 6: Winter 2008

Click here to read issue #6 in PDF (Winter 2008)

In this issue: The Wald Challenge: Downsize the Child Welfare System, Upsize Services That Work

The FDC Initiates Legislative Policy Program

Family Defense Briefs, page 2

Message from the Executive Director, back page


Anguished Mother Speaks Out About Abuse of Her Family, page 3

PEP Members Join in National Grass Roots Child Protection Reform Conference, page

If It Hadn’t Happened to an FDC Client Family, We Wouldn’t Believe it! page 5

FDC Inversigator Evaluation Project Needs Consumer Feedback, page 7

Family Defender Issue 3: Fall 2007

Click here to read Issue #3 in PDF (Fall 2007)

In this issue: Domestic Violence and Family Defense

Family Defense Briefs, page 2

Message from the Executive Director, back page


How the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Responds–on Paper–to Domestic Violence, page 3

The Nicholson Case: What Happens when Children Witness Abuse? page 6

A Survey of Domestic Violence Issues within the FDC’s Docket, page 7

Domestic Violence Advocacy Organizations, page 8

A Salute to Our First President: Briggitte Carlson, page 9