United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. ROSENSTENGEL, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on the cross-motions for
summary judgment filed by Plaintiff S.B.T. and Defendants
Karen Miller, Misty Huff, Diane Woods, Alexis Carlisle, and
Cynthia Tate, in her official capacity as Acting Director of
the Department of Children and Family Services
(“DCFS”) (collectively, “Defendants”)
(Docs. 51 and 54). S.B.T. brought this civil rights action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming Defendants deprived her
of her liberty interests without due process of law, in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. S.B.T. seeks compensatory damages, along with
interest, costs, and fees. For the reasons discussed below,
the motions are granted in part and denied in part.
A. The Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting
Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, or ANCRA,
325 ILCS 5/1, et seq., authorizes DCFS to take
certain actions to protect the health, safety, and best
interests of Illinois children in all situations in which the
child is vulnerable to abuse or neglect. Id. at
5/2(a). Under ANCRA, DCFS is obligated to receive and
investigate reports of suspected child abuse or neglect.
See Id. 5/2(b), 5/7.3(a). Initial reports of
suspected abuse or neglect may take the form of
“hotline” calls made to the agency. See
investigating an initial report, DCFS must determine whether
there is credible evidence of abuse or neglect. To do so, the
DCFS investigator must evaluate every piece of information
and evidence obtained during a child abuse and/or neglect
investigation, including both inculpatory and exculpatory
evidence. 89 Ill. Admin. Code §
300.160(c)(2)(A). In child neglect investigations,
inculpatory evidence means evidence showing or tending to
show that a person neglected a child. Id.
Exculpatory evidence is evidence tending to establish a
person's innocence or evidence that tends to justify or
clear a person from alleged fault or guilt, i.e.,
evidence showing or tending to show that a person did not
neglect a child. Id.
credible evidence of child neglect exists after considering
all inculpatory and exculpatory evidence, DCFS labels the
report as “indicated.” 325 ILCS 5/3, 5/7.12. If
there is no such credible evidence, the report is deemed
“unfounded.” 325 ILCS 5/8.1, 5/7.12. Final
determinations of “indicated” are recorded in the
Central Register maintained by the agency. 325 ILCS 5/7.12.
Indicated reports of most types of neglect, including the
allegation at issue in this case, are registered for a period
of five years and include identifying information about the
perpetrator. 325 ILCS 5/7.14.
procedures are provided if the individual accused of child
neglect also works with children. Once the DCFS investigator
and her supervisor recommend that a report should be
indicated, the alleged perpetrator is entitled to an
“administrator's teleconference” before a
neutral person. 89 Ill. Admin. Code § 300.160(c)(1)(A).
During the teleconference, the alleged perpetrator may be
represented by counsel and may present to the presiding DCFS
administrator any documents, statements, or other information
that she believes will help tell her side of the story.
Id. The administrator is also provided with a copy
of all evidence gathered and reports drafted by the
investigator concerning the purported abuse or neglect.
Id. § 300.160(c)(3)(C). The administrator then
makes a decision to uphold or decline the investigator's
recommendation to “indicate” and notifies the
alleged perpetrator of that decision. Id. §
300.160(c)(4)(D). Once a child care worker has been formally
indicated, she may request an expedited appeal before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). 325 ILCS
5/7.16. The ALJ may uphold the finding of indicated or amend
an indicated report to be “unfounded, ” in which
case the accused's identifying information is expunged
from the Central Register. Id. If the indicated
finding is upheld, the child care worker can appeal to the
Illinois Circuit Court.
DCFS will accept a report of child abuse or neglect, a
specific incident of harm to a child must be alleged to have
been caused. 89 Ill. Admin. Code. § 300, App'x B.
The Administrative Code provides a series of numbered
“allegations” that meet this requirement. See
Id. All neglect allegations of harm are coded with a two
digit number greater than 50. Id. “Allegation
60” is an allegation that neglect has occurred because
the child's environment is “injurious to the
child's health and welfare.” Id.;
Julie Q. v. Dep't of Children & Family
Servs., 995 N.E.2d 977, 979 (Ill. 2013).
December 22, 2011, an Illinois appellate court determined
that Allegation 60 exceeded the scope of authority granted to
DCFS under ANCRA, and therefore was void ab initio.
See Julie Q., 963 N.E.2d 401, 413 (Ill.App.Ct. 2d
Dist. 2011). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this
decision in March 2013. Julie Q. v. Dep't of Children
and Family Servs., 995 N.E.2d 977, 986 (Ill. 2013).
Prior to 1980, ANCRA listed several circumstances that
constituted a “neglected child, ” including when
the child was placed in “an environment injurious to
the child's welfare.” In 1980, the Illinois
legislature removed the “environment injurious”
language from ANCRA because it was deemed vague and
overbroad. Despite the decision to remove this language from
ANCRA, in 2001 DCFS adopted Allegation 60, which gave DCFS
investigators authority to investigate individuals under the
“environment injurious” standard. The Illinois
Supreme Court determined that DCFS was without authority to
include a definition of neglect in Allegation 60 that the
legislature explicitly removed from ANCRA; thus, Allegation
60 was void. Julie Q., 995 N.E.3d at 985.
July 13, 2012, Illinois adopted an amended provision of
ANCRA, which provided that a “neglected child”
includes a child “who is subjected to an environment
which is injurious insofar as (i) the child's environment
creates a likelihood of harm to the child's health,
physical well-being, or welfare and (ii) the likely harm
to the child is the result of a blatant disregard of parent,
caretaker, or agency responsibilities.” 325 ILCS
5/3 (emphasis added).
after the legislature amended ANCRA to revive the
“environment injurious” language and add the
“blatant disregard” requirement, DCFS did not
promulgate a new Allegation 60 until an emergency rule was
issued on January 1, 2014. Even still, the emergency rule did
not include the “blatant disregard” requirement.
After the normal rulemaking process, DCFS issued the final
version of revised Allegation 60, which finally added the
“blatant disregard” requirement, on June 14,
2014. The final version of revised Allegation 60
also includes domestic violence as an example of
circumstances that may create a risk of harm, but specifies
that the adult victim of domestic violence is presumed not to
be neglectful “so long as he or she has exercised
precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate the real,
significant and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm to
the child.” 89 Ill. Admin. Code. § 300, App'x
S.B.T.'s Indication for Child Neglect
February and March 2013, S.B.T. was the subject of an
investigation under ANCRA for child neglect. S.B.T. is a
certified child welfare specialist and the mother of two
living children and one stillborn child. Broche Taylor
(“Taylor”), S.B.T.'s ex-husband and the
father of her children, is an alcoholic who suffers from
Bipolar Disorder. Taylor also has a 13-year history of
domestic violence against S.B.T. (Doc. 55-1, p. 9, Doc.
February 13, 2013, DCFS received an anonymous hotline call
indicating that S.B.T. locked Taylor out of her home because
he was drunk. Taylor then threw a brick through the bedroom
window, landing only a foot away from where S.B.T. and her
five-month-old son were sleeping (Doc. 55, p. 2). As a result
of this incident, DCFS began investigating Taylor. Defendant
Karen Miller, a child welfare advanced specialist with DCFS,
was initially assigned to the investigation, but went on
leave after only two weeks (Doc. 53-2, pp. 3, 9). Defendant
Miller knew S.B.T. professionally, but she did not think
there was a conflict of interest (Id., p. 4). When
Defendant Miller went on leave, the investigation was
assigned to Defendant Misty Huff, who also knew S.B.T.
professionally (Doc. 53-3, p. 4). Defendant Huff alerted her
investigative supervisor, Defendant Diane Woods, to the
potential conflict (Doc. 56-5), but noted that she could
handle the case objectively. Accordingly, Defendant Huff
remained assigned to the investigation (Id.).
investigation of Taylor proceeded, Defendant Huff became
concerned with S.B.T.'s pattern of behavior with regard
to Taylor (Doc. 53-3, p. 41). Police reports from 2000 to
2013 showed Taylor assaulted S.B.T. numerous times, yet she
continued to allow him around the children. In August 2010,
S.B.T. filed for divorce and later sought an order of
protection, reporting that Taylor abused and sexually
assaulted her. S.B.T. subsequently dropped the order of
protection when her divorce became final. On another occasion
in 2012, S.B.T.'s then 11-year-old daughter reported an
incident involving Taylor where he told her to clean up dog
poop in the middle of the night. When she refused, Taylor
grabbed her by the throat and neck, scratching her face in
the process (Doc. 55-8, p. 5-6). Defendant Huff learned that
S.B.T. would sometimes press charges against Taylor; other
times she refused. After the incident on February 13, 2013,
S.B.T. obtained a second order of protection, but later
dropped it so Taylor could see the children if he was sober
(Ex. 1 at 2232-33). Numerous times, police offered S.B.T. a
packet on domestic violence services, which she refused.
(Id., pp. 41-42). In each instance, S.B.T. allowed
Taylor back into her home as long as he was sober.
March 22, 2013, S.B.T. was added as an alleged perpetrator
under Allegation 60 for providing an environment injurious to
the health and welfare of her children (Doc. 56-7). At 1:10
p.m. that same day, Defendant Huff met with S.B.T. and
notified her that she was the subject of a child neglect
investigation (Doc. 53-4). During the meeting, Defendant Huff
explained to S.B.T. that she had a right to an immediate
teleconference because of her status as a child care worker.
She also explained S.B.T.'s right to appeal any
unfavorable decision (Id.). Defendant Huff also
claims she gave S.B.T. a required notification form called a
CANTS 8 form at that time, although S.B.T. asserts she never
received a CANTS 8 notification (Doc. 56-2, p. 6).
the meeting, Defendant Huff and S.B.T. went over the many
police reports demonstrating the history of domestic
incidents and Taylor's problems with alcohol. S.B.T.
explained why she dropped two orders of protection against
Taylor (she wanted to help Taylor get services and for Taylor
to be able to come to the home if he was not drinking) (Doc.
53-4). Defendant Huff talked to S.B.T. about the cycle of
domestic violence and being a victim, but S.B.T. did not see
herself as a victim. Defendant Huff also offered voluntary
intact, in-home services, but S.B.T. denied any services.
S.B.T. told Defendant Huff she had been going to counseling
since the stillbirth of her child in December 2009, and she
signed a release of information form for Defendant Huff to
speak with her counselor. S.B.T. also gave Defendant Huff the
names of collateral contacts who could provide evidence in
S.B.T.'s favor (Doc. 53-4). Directly after this meeting,
at 2:09 p.m., Defendant Huff conferred with her supervisor,
Defendant Woods, and a decision was made at that time to
recommend that S.B.T. be indicated for child neglect (Doc.
53-3, p. 50-53; Doc. 55-21).
recommending that S.B.T. be indicated for child neglect,
Defendant Huff spoke with the collateral contacts S.B.T.
provided (Doc. 53-3, pp. 51-52). Although Defendants Huff and
Woods recommended a finding of indicated, that decision could
be changed up until the investigation was closed by
“restaffing” the investigation (Id., pp.
60-61). At 3:40 p.m. on March 22, 2013, Defendant Huff spoke
with S.B.T.'s father, who acknowledged that Taylor has a
problem with alcohol and that he often verbally abused S.B.T.
However, S.B.T.'s father did not believe the children
were at risk (Doc. 56-14). Defendant Huff spoke with contact
Monique Stuckey at 4:03 p.m. Stuckey agreed that Taylor was a
problem and that S.B.T. should “get rid of him while
[she] can.” Stuckey further stated that Taylor
manipulates S.B.T. and says he needs her; S.B.T. then tries
to fix or mother him. Stuckey also verified that S.B.T.'s
daughter does not like Taylor (Doc. 56-15). Defendant Huff
also spoke with the children's primary care physicians
that afternoon (a Friday) and on the following Monday
morning. (Docs. 55-28, 55-29, 55-30). That Monday she also
spoke with Sharon Reed, S.B.T.'s counselor at the Angela
Center for Behavioral Health, who confirmed S.B.T. was in
counseling for the loss of a child and “the domestic
issues” (Doc. 56-16). Defendant Huff later testified
that at the time she recommended the indicated finding, she
had already made up her mind and none of the information
provided by the collateral contacts was going to change it
(Doc. 56-5, pp. 19, 20). Defendant Huff further stated that
regardless of what the contacts would have said, “the
evidence was already there to indicate” S.B.T.
(Id., p. 16).
S.B.T. was a child welfare worker, she was entitled to an
additional layer of review by way of the administrator's
teleconference. On April 4, 2013, Defendant Alexis Carlisle
held the teleconference with S.B.T. Prior to the call,
Defendant Carlisle told S.B.T. to send any documents S.B.T.
wanted her to review. S.B.T. submitted a 12-page,
single-spaced letter in support of her position. During the
administrator's teleconference, Defendant Carlisle
considered the documents S.B.T. submitted, the police
reports, the investigative summary (which included
information from S.B.T.'s collateral contacts), the fact
that S.B.T. declined domestic violence services, and the
safety of the children. Defendant Carlisle then made a final
finding indicating S.B.T. for child neglect pursuant to
Allegation 60. As a result of being “indicated, ”
S.B.T.'s name was placed on the Central Register.
notification of the indicated finding, S.B.T. filed an
expedited administrative appeal on May 7, 2013. On July 22,
2013, the ALJ issued his Recommendation and Opinion. The ALJ
recommended that the indicated finding be affirmed based on
evidence that S.B.T. was allegedly denying and minimizing
past incidents of domestic violence, which placed
S.B.T.'s children in an injurious environment.
letter dated July 24, 2013, Richard H. Calica, then Director
of DCFS, issued the final administrative decision and
informed S.B.T. that he was adopting the ALJ's decision
to indicate her under Allegation 60, and that S.B.T.'s
request for expungement of her record from the Central
Register was denied.
August 16, 2013, S.B.T. filed a pro se Complaint for
Administrative Review in the Circuit Court of the Second
Judicial Circuit, Jefferson County, Illinois. On February 6,
2014, the Circuit Judge found that the Director's
decision to indicate S.B.T. was against the manifest weight
of the evidence and reversed the Director's decision,
thereby removing S.B.T. from the Central Register. At no
point during the investigation or review of S.B.T.'s
indication for neglect were her children removed from her