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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Family Defense Center Wins High Court Victory Against DCFS ‘Environment-Injurious’ Rule

Illinois Supreme Court says DCFS exceeded legal authority by setting ‘its own’ criteria for child neglect

CHICAGO, March 25, 2013 – The Family Defense Center (FDC) announces a unanimous victory in the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled the state’s child welfare agency exceeded its authority when it adopted a broad rule to label thousands of parents guilty of child neglect. The General Assembly removed the “environment-injurious” clause from statute in 1980 on the grounds it was subject to “lots of misunderstandings.”  Advocates hail the decision as a breakthrough for wrongly accused parents, including domestic violence victims.

In Julie Q. v. DCFS, the Court rejected the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ defense because “environment-injurious” rule was not part of Illinois’ Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act in 2009 when DCFS used it to indicate Ms. Q. for neglect. DCFS had received a hotline call from Julie Q.’s ex-husband as they were embroiled in a bitter custody battle. In its decision, the Court said DCFS exceeded its legal authority in labeling Ms. Q a child neglecter when the legislature had expressly removed the “environment-injurious” phrase from Illinois law. Read more

Attorneys Help Parents Keep Families Intact Amid Misplaced Child Abuse Allegations

The work of an FDC pro bono team at Sidley Austin LLP is highlighted in this article published in the Winter 2013 issue of the American Bar Association’s Litigation magazine:

Attorneys Help Parents Keep Families Intact Amid Misplaced Child Abuse Allegations

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