Despite three decades of litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, broken promises, court orders, news reports, and letters from informed officials, DCFS continually lacks placements for children in its care, forcing some foster children to be wrongfully incarcerated. The recent lawsuit seeks to represent all individuals placed in DCFS care since Jan. 1, 2018, that spent at least seven consecutive days incarcerated after a court order for their release upon request. The plaintiffs estimated the class includes “well over 100 children.” The suit named DCFS Director Marc Smith, assistant deputy directors Lauren Williams and Ryan Goodwin, as well as former directors and senior agency officials as defendants. The lawsuit demands a jury trial and requests plaintiffs be awarded compensatory damages, costs and attorneys’ fees as well as punitive damages from the individual defendants named in the suit.
Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert contends that DCFS imprisonments intensely magnify the harms these children have already suffered. According to the suit, children incarcerated in juvenile jail are confined to their cells for the majority of the day, have limited opportunities to exercise, and are exposed to unnecessary violence and dangers. Moreover, DCFS is unable to provide them the clinically appropriate mental health treatment and educational services that they need—critical resources for children who have suffered trauma and instability. Golbert commented that “DCFS is not only cruelly accentuating the trauma of these young people, inflicting often irreparable harm on society’s most vulnerable, they are wasting local taxpayers’ money doing so.” Golbert further explained “…housing these children in appropriate settings with the full set of social services they need would cost local taxpayers half the cost of imprisoning them in settings that deprive them of these services and only make their symptoms much worse.”
Read more from Capitol News Illinois here.
Justice for Kids attorney Julianna Walo is available to discuss the rights of these children. Click here to contact her.