For the Good of the Group 249
yet reached the level of success they could, the consent decree as a result of Aristotle P. allows for
continued enforcement and continued progress toward the goal.
VI. MEASURING SUCCESS
When analyzing the success of class actions, it is important to look at both the promised
changes and the actual impacts that result and how they alleviate the hardship of the affected class.
The lawsuits discussed previously cannot be called successes at the formation of settlements or
consent decrees, but instead the effects on children must be examined to measure the outcomes.
Within child welfare, there are unique questions to be addressed to determine success and some of
those will be addressed here.
a. Who gets a voice in class action lawsuits?
As previously defined, the goal of child welfare is to promote the well-being of children
and therefore their needs should be at the forefront if the child welfare system.136 Currently, child
welfare rhetoric centers on parents’ rights and responsibilities, making it hard to direct the policies
toward who they are aimed to support—the children.137 Class actions are a way to give the children
in the system a voice to advocate for their needs by placing the child’s best interests at the heart of
the litigation. Yet, due to the legal restrictions on youth, specifically regarding age, class actions
beg the question of which party, the parent or the child, has the more effective voice through impact
The Illinois cases previously discussed were not solely promoting for the rights of the
children, but the right of the parents and the family as a whole. Four of these involved children as
the named plaintiffs, but all were effective at putting the child’s best interests at the heart of the
litigation. However, it can be argued that cases like Aristotle P. or B.H. v. Sheldon are more likely
to hold the child welfare systems accountable to the changes made because the changes directly
affect the children, and therefore enforcement relates directly to the positive impacts on the
In many instances, the children who have entered the child welfare system are hindered
from advocating for themselves. The case of Aristotle P. was particularly noteworthy considering
the Office of the Public Guardian advocated for the children it served on a large scale, rather than
fighting for individual change. With the power of an agency like the ACLU or the Family Defense
Center, these children have the benefit of a strong advocate acting on their behalf. However, it is
not necessarily easy for children to access these resources. Although in Illinois, children in the
child welfare system may have the benefit of having the representation of their GAL, the GAL is
more focused on the individual child’s well-being and not in creating large scale policy change,
considering his or her job is to advocate for the child’s best interest.138
Class actions and impact litigation provide more opportunities for children to be heard on
concerns they have with how the system is operating, so long as they have an advocate to speak
on their behalf. They may also have their rights advocated for through their parents in these types
of litigation. Regardless of who the named plaintiffs are, when the litigation is fighting in the
name of their voice, it ensures that they stay at the center of the discussion and the relief, unlike in
traditional legislative policy change.
136 How the Child Welfare System Works, supra note 1; Woodhouse, supra note 2, at 1755.
137 See generally Dailey, supra note 14, at 2113.
138 750 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/506.