National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Aristotle P. v. Samuels
also known as Aristotle P. v. McDonald, Aristotle P. v. Johnson, Aristotle P. v. McEwen

Plaintiffs brought this class action on behalf of children who (1) are or will be in the temporary custody or guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and (2) have not been, or will not be, placed with their siblings, or will not be given reasonable visitation with their siblings. Plaintiffs alleged that DCFS regularly placed siblings into separate foster homes and residential facilities, and refused to arrange or permit sibling visits, thereby depriving children of rights secured by the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED

88 C 7919 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5, 1988)

CITATIONS

721 F. Supp. 1002 (N.D. Ill. 1989)

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Robert F. Harris
Jill Runk
Office of the Cook County Public Guardian
69 W. Washington
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-0800
Fax: (312) 603-9946
rujill@cookcountygov.com

HISTORY AND STATUS

In September 1989, the district court ruled on defendants’ motion to dismiss, denying it in part and granting it in part. The court found that plaintiffs stated a § 1983 claim for violation of their First Amendment and substantive due process rights. However, the district court dismissed plaintiffs’ federal statutory claims, holding that plaintiffs did not have enforceable rights to be “placed in the least restrictive most family-like setting,” to have DCFS make “reasonable efforts to reunify families,” or to “meaningful visitation,” because these federal child welfare claims were not privately enforceable.

In March 1994, the parties entered into a consent decree, providing for placement of siblings together when possible, visitation and other contacts among siblings placed apart, training of caseworkers, and monitoring and data collection over a three-year period.

One portion of the decree regarding sibling placement was reached when defendants complied with its terms. The parties then agreed to extend until March 2004, the portion of the consent decree regarding sibling visitation. In March 1997, because DCFS remained out of compliance, the parties agreed to a two-year extension of the consent decree. It was extended again in 1999.

The parties monitor compliance through analysis of data regarding the frequency of sibling visitation and the imposition of fines on child welfare agencies that are not in compliance with the decree. As of August 2003, the court had imposed $200,000 in fines. On March 5, 2004, the court approved the parties’ joint modification of the consent decree, which extended the court’s jurisdiction over the case until March 11, 2006.