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Maria V., et al v. Elisa Corona

January 17, 2012

MARIA V., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ELISA CORONA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant Elisa Corona's (Corona), Defendant Sousan Bahavar's (Bahavar), Defendant Alicia Pickett's (Pickett), Defendant Roi Montalvo's (Montalvo), Defendant Stany D'Souza's (D'Souza), and Defendant DCFS Director Erwin McEwen's (McEwen)(collectively, "DCFS Defendants") motion to dismiss the claims brought against them in their official capacity. For the reasons stated below, the partial motion to dismiss is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Maria V. and her minor children, Plaintiff S.G. and Plaintiff B.G., allege that in July 2008, S.G. reported to Maria V. that her father, H.G., had sexually abused her. H.G. allegedly denied that he had sexually abused S.G., and Maria V. allegedly discussed what to do with her personal counselor. Shortly after, Maria V.'s counselor called an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Hotline to report S.G.'s claim of sexual abuse, as required by Illinois law. Pickett and Corona, as investigators for DCFS, allegedly each went to the family's home in July of 2008 to investigate the matter. Defendant Child Advocacy Center of Hoffman Estates (CAC) allegedly then interviewed S.G. and B.G., and after the interview, the allegations of sexual abuse were determined to be "unfounded."

In October 2008, another issue arose and H.G. again allegedly denied any wrongdoing. Maria V. then allegedly contacted Corona, who instructed Maria V. to report the matter to the police. The police allegedly searched the family's home and found a pornographic video among the children's PlayStation games. Maria V. and H.G. allegedly separated shortly thereafter, and H.G. moved to another residence.

In late October 2008, Maria V. allegedly informed the children's doctor that she suspected that the children had been sexually abused by H.G., and B.G. allegedly reported instances of sexual abuse to the doctor and to Maria V. Allegedly, a CAC employee later interviewed the children in the presence of Corona and others. In addition, Maria V. was allegedly questioned regarding her marital relationship, was informed that the children had not reported any sexual abuse during the CAC interviews, and was accused of making false reports against H.G. Plaintiffs claim that no official notice of this allegation against Maria V. was ever provided to her and that, regardless, such "coaching" does not constitute child abuse. Plaintiffs also claim that Corona, allegedly with the support of her supervisor, Bahavar, "relied upon a ground for DCFS intervention against a parent that did not exist as a matter of law." (A Compl. Par. 37). In late November 2008, Maria V. allegedly received notification that, after conducting a second investigation, DCFS had concluded that both the allegations of child abuse against her husband and the allegation of "coaching" against her were determined to be "unfounded."

In February 2009, Maria V.'s children allegedly began counseling with Miriam Lopez (Lopez) at a center that provides services to victims of sexual assault. In late May 2009, Maria V. and H.G. divorced and Maria V. was awarded primary custody of the children pursuant to a Joint Parenting Agreement (Agreement). Pursuant to the Agreement, Maria V. and H.G. worked out a visitation schedule that did not include any overnight visits with H.G. After the divorce, both children allegedly continued to report that H.G. had abused them at the family's home prior to Maria V.'s and H.G.'s separation. Plaintiffs allege that Maria V. again reported this information to her counselor and that, based on her counselor's advice, Maria V. called the DCFS Hotline to report the abuse.

Shortly after, Corona allegedly began investigating the new allegations of abuse and, on July 1, 2009, Corona removed S.G. and B.G. from Maria V.'s custody for one day, allegedly with no safety plan, court order, or any other legal authority. Approximately three weeks later, Corona allegedly informed Maria V. that the third investigation had been closed and that DCFS had again determined the allegations of sexual abuse against H.G. to be "unfounded." Bahavar also allegedly communicated this information to Lopez and also told Lopez that Bahavar believed that Maria V. might be "coaching" the children to make false reports of sexual abuse against H.G. Lopez allegedly indicated to Bahavar that Lopez did not believe such coaching had occurred, and Bahavar allegedly indicated to Lopez at that time that the investigation against Maria V. regarding the alleged coaching would likely be resolved as "unfounded" and the case transferred to an intact family services team, with referrals for H.G. to complete a sex offender evaluation and Maria V. to undergo a psychological examination.

After the close of the third investigation, the children's visits with H.G. allegedly resumed, and soon thereafter S.G. allegedly began to have problems sleeping. In November 2009, S.G. allegedly reported further sexual abuse to her aunt, who reported the information to the DCFS Hotline. CAC allegedly interviewed the children, but a DCFS investigator allegedly told Maria V. that DCFS could not accept the new report. In addition, S.G. allegedly reported additional incidents of sexual abuse to Lopez in therapy sessions that occurred throughout November 2009. Lopez allegedly attempted to contact DCFS regarding S.G.'s statements at least three times in late November 2009, and was allegedly informed by Corona in December 2009 that a sex offender evaluation suggested there was some likelihood that H.G. was a sex offender and that there was a recommendation that H.G. have no further contact with the children. In late December 2009, DCFS allegedly authorized H.G. to speak with the children, and in January 2010, DCFS allegedly authorized H.G. to see the children.

In early January 2011, an additional report of sexual abuse was allegedly made, and thereafter, DCFS investigator Celmira Bolanos (Bolanos) allegedly forced Maria V. to sign a safety plan placing the children in the custody of their babysitter and prohibiting Maria V. from having contact with the children. Bolanos allegedly took such actions without DCFS ever having provided Maria V. with any documentation of any allegations made against her. Corona was allegedly also involved in this investigation and allegedly required the children to submit to an interview at CAC. A short time later, Bolanos allegedly accused Maria V. of coaching the children, but indicated that the children could return to Maria V.'s custody and be contacted by H.G. DCFS later "unfounded" the case against H.G.

In March 2010, both children allegedly exhibited sleep disturbances. In early April, a DCFS Investigator identified as "Ms. Rivera" (Rivera) allegedly went to Maria V.'s home to enroll her in a program that would permit the children to continue counseling with Lopez. Later that day, Rivera allegedly informed Maria V. that H.G. had passed all evaluations that DCFS had subjected him to and denied that any of the evaluations had shown some likelihood that H.G. was a sex offender. Rivera also allegedly denied that Lopez had ever made any reports to the DCFS Hotline, accused Maria V. of making all the Hotline reports and coaching the children, and threatened to remove the children from Maria V.'s custody.

The children's sleep disturbances and reports of sexual abuse allegedly continued in April and May 2010. Lopez allegedly again reported the abuse to the DCFS Hotline. DCFS Investigator Esther Cordova, after conducting an interview with the children, allegedly accused Maria V. of coaching the children. DCFS allegedly again took the children into state custody without providing Maria V. any documentation regarding any allegations against her. In addition, at the close of the investigation, DCFS allegedly again "unfounded" the allegations against H.G.

In December 2010, the children allegedly made additional allegations of sexual abuse to Lopez, which Lopez allegedly reported via the DCFS Hotline. Allegedly Corona, under the supervision of Bahavar, conducted another investigation. On January 10, 2011, Corona allegedly requested that Maria V. bring the children to CAC to be interviewed. There, Maria V. was allegedly accused of coaching her children, and the children were allegedly removed from Maria V.'s custody without her consent and without probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that Maria V. had abused or neglected her children or that the children were in imminent risk of harm from Maria V. Upon removal from Maria V's custody, the children were allegedly placed in the custody of H.G. under another safety plan, despite Maria V.'s alleged protests. Maria V. was allegedly instructed to leave CAC without her children. Plaintiffs allege that, pursuant to DCFS policy, Bahavar's supervisors, Montalvo and/or D'Souza, would have been required to approve the removal of the children from Maria V.'s custody without her consent and the placement of the children with H.G. In addition, Plaintiffs allege that CAC also participated in or permitted DCFS' removal of the children from Maria V.'s custody without her consent.

On January 25, 2011, Maria V. allegedly received a copy of a safety plan signed by H.G., which prohibited Maria V. from contacting her children and required Maria V. to submit to a psychological evaluation. On February 1, 2011, Maria V. allegedly contacted Corona to request permission to see her children, since the safety plan had allegedly expired by its terms. Corona allegedly failed to respond to Maria V., but communicated to H.G. that the safety plan was still in effect and that he should not permit Maria V. to have any contact with her children. Allegedly under the direction of Pickett, the children continued to reside with H.G. and the children's contact with Maria V. was allegedly limited to telephone calls until Maria V. agreed to submit to "an unspecified psychiatric assessment." (A Compl. Par. 70). Plaintiffs allege ...


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