National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Hill v. Erickson

This is a class action suit on behalf of adolescent wards of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who are pregnant or already parents. Plaintiffs alleged that DCFS failed to provide adequate placements and services to meet their needs and those of their children. Class members are moved from shelter to shelter and needlessly separated from their young children, in violation of federal statutory law, Illinois state law, and the state and federal constitutions.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED

88 C 0296 (Ill. Cir. Ct., Cook City, Mental Health Div., 1988)

CLEARINGHOUSE REVIEW NO.

44,096

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Laurene Heybach
Law Project, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
1325 S. Wabash, Suite 205
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 435-4548
Fax: (312) 435-0198
RHeybach@aol.com

Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP
8000 Sears Tower
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 876-8000
Fax: (312) 876-7934

HISTORY AND STATUS

The court certified a class on May 12, 1989. Plaintiffs obtained an injunction in January 1990, which resulted, in part, in the development of a program and services plan for pregnant and parenting teens. DCFS has issued a positive report on the implementation of this plan.

On January 3, 1994, the parties entered a comprehensive consent decree. The consent decree provides for community-based programs and services for pregnant and parenting teens who are wards of the state, including placements, education, day care, independent living programs, and health care.

After a period of significant noncompliance, defendants entered into negotiations with plaintiffs to create a new case management system. In 1998, defendants awarded a contract to Ulich’s Children’s Home. Monica Mahem, M.S.W., from the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University, was selected as the decree’s consultant.

In June 2009, DCFS proposed drastic budget cuts, which threatened the services being provided to pregnant and parenting teens in the Illinois foster care system. Plaintiffs immediately brought this case back to court to enforce the settlement terms and protect the rights of the youth affected. DCFS quickly withdrew the proposed cuts, and the parties reached a settlement in December 2009. On December 11, 2009, the court preliminarily approved the settlement, requiring DCFS to continue to abide by all terms of the decree and to share requested information with plaintiffs and the decree’s consultant. The settlement was finalized on March 18, 2010, and plaintiffs’ counsel continue to monitor compliance.