For the Good of the Group 241
The parties settled the case and as a result of negotiations, agreed to enter into the B.H.
Consent Decrees; thus, it was a form of settlement and not a determination of liability.41 The
lawsuit and resulting consent decree led to several positive impacts on children. First, the required
reforms have improved the safety of the children by ensuring DCFS provide at least minimally
adequate care, meaning the children in DCFS care are free of physical harm and receive adequate
food, clothing, shelter, and mental and medical care.42 Second, it holds DCFS accountable to these
promises by creating a system that improved caseworkers’ ability to provide appropriate and
necessary services, enforce reasonable efforts standards, and make timely decisions about
children’s placements.43 Third, it led to a shift in the supervision system that provides for more
thorough investigations and has helped ensure accountability within DCFS and its employees.44
Fourth, the B.H. Consent Decree created regulations for case plans to ensure they are developed
promptly and thoroughly and are ultimately effective.45
In 1993, five years after litigation began, DCFS completed an initial assessment of the
circumstances to determine what changes would need to be made to comply with the consent
decree.46 As a part of the settlement agreement, the ACLU has been tasked with holding DCFS
accountable for the changes it promised to make when it agreed to the B.H. Consent Decree and
in order to do this it was granted the judicially enforceable right to request DCFS compliance
through a court.47 For example, although Illinois did not have a budget from 2014 until July 2017,
the ACLU requested compliance with the B.H. Consent Decree to demand that child welfare
services continue to be funded.48 The ACLU itself is burdened with monitoring the actions of
DCFS to ensure its complies with the B.H. Consent Decree, and, if a violation occurs, it is the
ACLU’s responsibility to bring the violation to the attention of the judge who can order DCFS
In addition to requesting compliance, the ACLU has also used the B.H. Consent Decree as
a jumping off point for further changes. Following reports from 2014 of a severe shortage of
mental health services provided to children at residential homes, the ACLU utilized the consent
decree to spur negotiations for further systematic changes with former DCFS Director George
Sheldon.50 The ACLU informed DCFS it was in violation of the consent decree then filed an
emergency motion to enforce compliance.51 In 2015, the Court granted the motion and appointed
experts to evaluate the services and recommend appropriate solutions, proving the consent decree
continues to be an asset to children in DCFS care.52
While the B.H. Consent Decree has been a cornerstone for DCFS reform, it is not a solution
in and of itself because the enforcement process is neither simple nor automatic. The ACLU must
41 Id. at 5.
42 Consent Decree, supra note 35, at 9.
43 Id. at 10, 51; Case Overview, supra note 34.
44 Case Overview, supra note 34.
45 Consent Decree, supra note 35, at 19.
46 Id. at 11-12.
48 Case Overview, supra note 34; Consent Decree, supra note 35.
49 Consent Decree, supra note 35, at 55-57.
50 Case Overview, supra note 34.
51 ACLU urges Federal Court to Force Changes on Broken and Dangerous DCFS, ACLU (Feb. 16, 2015),
52 Case Overview, supra note 34.