250 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 37:2 2017]
b. How are these changes reflected in numbers?
As a data-driven society, one way that success is often defined is through numerical
values— how many people were affected, how much money was saved, how long it took to
accomplish something—people strive to quantitatively define success.
The ACLU reports the B.H. Consent Decree as a having a large, positive impact on the
child welfare system in Illinois because of the changes for which they were able to bargain.139
However, it is important to note that throughout the implementation of the changes, there was
notable shifting in the child welfare system.140 The number of children in care in Illinois peaked
at 51,000 in 1997, almost ten years after the consent decree was established.141 While the decline
in the amount of children in welfare is admirable, and in some ways due to the B.H. Consent
Decree, it is difficult to discern exactly how much change it spurred. One tangible way to follow
how the B.H. Consent Decree is affecting the Illinois child welfare system is through the ways the
ACLU is able to hold the state accountable for financing the services they provide.142 Following
the 2014 budget crisis in Illinois when the state did not have a budget from 2014-2017, DCFS
attempted to stop paying for necessary services to children and lay off workers, thus increasing
caseloads of the remaining workers.143 The ACLU referred the Court to the consent decree and
requested a judge issue an emergency order that the state was to continue these services and pay
for them despite the lack of a budget.144 This process was also followed and an order was granted
during a similar situation of under-funding in 2009.145
Another way to analyze this litigation is to examine the number of families affected. For
example, as a result of the Ashley M. verdict, the Family Defense Center estimated that 3,000
names would be expunged, meaning those parents would no longer be listed as “indicated” of child
neglect under Allegation 60.146 While this data is important and shows effective work, it begs the
question of how much work DCFS did to remedy the situation. For example, once an adult is
“indicated,” they can no longer maintain a job in a childcare field. In cases where a wrongfully
indicated person has lost their job, simply expunging the record may not be enough. Additionally,
although the data shows that DCFS complied with the written agreement to expunge the findings,
future cases show that they continue to utilize Allegation 60 of neglect to investigate and indicate
139 Case Overview, supra note 34.
140 See generally Few Options are Open for Drug Babies, CHI. TRIB. (Jan. 31, 1996),
such circumstance that led to an increase in the number of children in the system was the crack cocaine epidemic
that hit Chicago in the late 1980s which led to more children coming into the child welfare system.); Has Child
Protective Services Gone Too Far?, NATION (Sept. 30, 2016), https://www.thenation.com/article/has-child-protective-services-gone-too-far/ (In a generation of free-range parenting, some feel the oversight by DCFS and
similar agencies in other states has led to more involvement than necessary into families’ lives and in turn brought
too many children into the system).
141 About DCFS, supra note 32.
142 ACLU asks federal court to protect vulnerable children during budget impasse, ACLU (July 6, 2015), available
144 Joint Emergency Motion For Entry of Agreed Order, B.H. v. Sheldon, 88-C-5599 (N.D. Il. 2015), available at
145 Victory for Children in State Custody, ACLU (June 30, 2009), available at http://www.aclu-il.org/victory-for-children-in-state-custody/.
146 Staas, supra note 70.