Yes, you can sue DCFS in Illinois, but it will not be easy. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) can get sued for abuse, gross negligence, or a violation of civil rights. Because these cases are so difficult, you will want to talk to a Chicago civil rights attorney about your case.
Abuse of a child can include extreme neglect. By definition, abuse and neglect are recent actions that cause a child to be at risk of imminent and significant harm or that cause severe physical harm, exploitation, sexual abuse, or emotional harm. In reality, DCFS often does not step in until after the child suffers substantial harm or death.
Let’s say that a child got placed in foster care. Despite numerous hotline reports from the child’s relatives and teachers alleging abuse or neglect at the foster home, DCFS did not perform an investigation, remove the child from the foster home, or take any protective action.
Eventually, the school called 911 when the child collapsed at school. The hospital did x-rays and found multiple recent fractures. DCFS could be sued for ignoring the abuse of the child.
How to Prove a Violation of Your Civil Rights
When DFCS employees are performing their job functions, they are acting under the “color of law” because they are acting on behalf of the state, which gives them their authority. If a DCFS worker violates your civil rights, they are acting under the color of law, which can make them liable. For example, they are not allowed to barge into your residence and rummage through your personal property.
Also, they are supposed to follow due process like a hearing and a chance to tell your side of the story before they remove your child permanently. In addition, DCFS workers are not supposed to discriminate against any protected classes when performing their duties. Discrimination can include treating a person differently because of their race, national or ethnic origin, religion, disability, or another prohibited reason.
How to Prove Negligence
Taking a person’s child away from them is serious business, and an action not to be taken lightly. When a DCFS worker takes a child from a parent, for example, under a mistaken belief of abuse or neglect, they cannot get sued for simple negligence. They can, however, get sued for gross negligence.
Imagine that a DFCS worker received many phone calls from your former spouse that accused you of abusing your children from a previous relationship. The former spouse was not a parent of the children. In fact, you had an order of protection ordering your former spouse to stay away from you and your children because of domestic violence against you and the children.
Despite your protests about the restraining order, the worker took your children with no evidence of abuse and placed them with your former spouse, who physically harmed them. This could be an example of gross negligence, which requires showing that the worker’s failure to investigate was a failure to take any precautions to prevent an extreme risk of harm to the children. A Chicago civil rights attorney can talk to you about your case. We do not charge for the initial consultation. Reach out to our office today for help with your case.