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there was no probable cause to find W.M. neglected and he was returned home.96 However, after
this decision, DCFS would not remove W.M.’s mother with an indicated finding until an attorney
intervened on her behalf.97
DCFS suggested the case be settled and the parties reached several agreements.98 First,
they agreed that DCFS cannot utilize a “rule out” policy, meaning DCFS cannot take protective
custody of children when it cannot rule out abuse; instead, there must be specific evidence of abuse
to take protective custody.99 Additionally, DCFS agreed to discontinue the use of the “hospital
hold” policy, which the Family Defense Center deemed a coercive practice that can lead to
unlawful safety plan demands.100 This settlement protects the fundamental rights of parents to
parent because it prevents DCFS from taking children away from parents unjustly.101
Together, these class action litigations were able to make great strides in holding safety
plans to the standards set out in their creation and keep their use focused on their intended purpose.
While these cases were focused on the rights of parents, they were doing so to implement best
practices to benefit children. Although DCFS agreed to the settlement, it is difficult to enforce its
terms until it is too late and the safety plan is already implemented. Therefore, the Family Defense
Center has used not only class action means to try to correct these problems, but has also fought
in individual cases and provided pro se resources to parents adversely affected after being coerced
into a safety plan.102 Again, the problem of accountability arises when DCFs has promised to
implement a practice but there is no accountability forcing them to do so. Part of the problems
that arise with holding DCFS accountable for the proper use of safety plans is that attorneys are
not often alerted when a safety plan is created. While both settlements are recent, it is clear from
the history of the Family Defense Center that they will continue to hold DCFS to their promises
and in turn reorient the system work to protect the children and families as it is meant to.103
V. ARISTOTLE P. V. GREGG
The final lawsuit which will be addressed here, In 1988, Aristotle P. v. McDonald, was
brought by the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian against DCFS in 1988.104 In this suit,
the plaintiffs were children with siblings who had been removed from their homes and placed in
foster care without their siblings and were denied opportunities for visitation with their siblings.105
Claimants brought claims under the Adoptive Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the First
96 W.M. v. Giscombe, Civil Action No. 15-cv-305, available at http://www.familydefensecenter.org/wp-
98 2016 Settlements, supra note 77.
101 Id.; Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 57 (2000) (establishing a fundamental right to parent).
102 Understanding and Responding to Department of Children and Family Services’ Abuse and Neglect
Investigations in Illinois, FAM. DEFENSE CTR. (April 2016), http://www.familydefensecenter.net/wp-
103 See generally 2016 Settlements, supra note 77.
104 Complaint, Aristotle P. v. Johnson (N.D. Il. 1989) (No. 88 C 7919).