Artist M. v. Johnson

Decision Date20 December 1990
Docket Number90-1764,Nos. 90-1742,s. 90-1742
Citation917 F.2d 980
PartiesARTIST M., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Gordon JOHNSON and Gary T. Morgan, Defendants-Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Patrick T. Murphy, Jeanette DeGrange, Susan T. Pierce, Julie Lynn Biehl, Michael G. Dsida, Office of the Public Guardian, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Paula Giroux, Asst. Atty. Gen., Christina M. Tchen, Susan Getzendanner, Charles F. Smith, Kimberley K. Baer, Christina E. Wells, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellants.

Diane Redleaf, Laurene M. Heybach, Susan Wishnick, Joan Matlack, Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, Chicago, Ill., for Joann Mitchell, Wanda Hilliard and Putative Class in Norman V. Johnson, 89 C 1624 (Northern District of Illinois), amici curiae.

Gregory L. Evans, Nat. Coalition for the Homeless, Washington, D.C., for Nat. Coalition for the Homeless, amicus curiae.

Michael L. Brody, Schiff, Hardin & Waite, Chicago, Ill., for Nat. Children's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Legal Services Organization of Indiana, Roger Baldwin Foundation of the American Civil Liberties Union and Children's Defense Fund, amici curiae.

Before CUMMINGS and MANION, Circuit Judges, and ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge.

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiffs in this class action suit allege that the Department of Children and Family Services (the "DCFS"), an agency of the State of Illinois, fails to assign caseworkers to members of their class in a timely manner and that this violates the federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (the "AAA"). 1 Defendants Gordon Johnson and Gary Morgan are director and guardianship administrator, respectively, of the DCFS. They appeal from the entry of a preliminary injunction and enforcement order requiring them to adhere to the AAA's minimum requirements in several specific respects, and from the denial of their motion to dismiss the complaint. 2 We affirm.

I. Procedural Background

The DCFS 3 and the State's Attorney's Office screen reports of abused, neglected, or dependent children and, on the basis of some of those investigations, the DCFS files petitions in the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois ("Juvenile Court"). Following Juvenile Court hearings, some of the subjects of those petitions become wards of the Juvenile Court under the supervision of the DCFS. In some cases the Juvenile Court will award temporary custody of the child to the DCFS as custodian and in others the child will be returned to the custody of his or her parents under protective order.

Plaintiffs, wards of the Juvenile Court, filed this class action in December 1988 for alleged violations of the AAA by the DCFS. The class and a subclass were certified pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 23(c)(1) shortly after suit was filed. Class A is composed of all children who are or will be subjects of Juvenile Court petitions, who are or will be in the custody of DCFS (or in a home under DCFS supervision) by an order of the Juvenile Court, and who are or will be without a DCFS caseworker for a significant period of time. Class B, the subclass, is identical to Class A except that Class B does not include children who are in a home under DCFS supervision by order of the Juvenile Court.

Plaintiffs allege that the DCFS violates the rights of class members by failing promptly to assign caseworkers to children under protective or supervisory court orders and also by failing promptly to reassign cases when a caseworker goes on leave, is terminated, or resigns. Artist M. v. Johnson, 726 F.Supp. 690, 692 (N.D.Ill.1989). These alleged policies and practices of the DCFS purportedly violate Sections 671(a)(9), (a)(15), and (a)(16) of the AAA. 4 The plaintiffs assert that failure to assign caseworkers or to ensure that caseworkers hand off cases to each other promptly contributes to unnecessary abuse, neglect, and disintegration of families. Cast in terms of the AAA's requirements, the plaintiffs specifically allege that the DCFS fails to: (1) make "reasonable efforts" to prevent the removal of children from their homes, (2) make "reasonable efforts" to reunify with their families those children who have been removed from their homes, (3) notify appropriate agencies when a child is mistreated while placed in another home, and (4) develop case plans to assure proper services are provided to children while in placement. Artist M., 726 F.Supp. at 696 n. 8.

Plaintiffs sued the DCFS under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, under the AAA directly, and under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 5 Defendants moved under Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(6) for dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. On November 21, 1989, Judge Shadur dismissed Class B plaintiffs' due process claim but denied the motion in all other respects, holding that plaintiffs could maintain a cause of action under Section 1983 as well as directly under the AAA. Artist M., 726 F.Supp. at 696-697.

Thereafter the district court held a hearing with respect to the plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief. On March 2, 1990, the district court entered a preliminary injunction enjoining the DCFS from failing to assign a caseworker to plaintiffs within three working days of the time the case is first heard in Juvenile Court and from failing to reassign a caseworker within three working days after a previously assigned caseworker relinquishes any portion of the case. On April 3, 1990, the court amended the injunction by entering an order designed to monitor DCFS compliance with its terms. 6 The DCFS filed timely notices of appeal seeking review of the injunctive orders dated March 2 and April 3, 1990, 7 as well as the November 21, 1989, order disposing of the DCFS motion to dismiss.

After hearing oral argument, this Court entered an order on June 21, modified on June 27, partially remanding this cause to the district court. The district court was to make factual findings regarding the nature of delays in caseworker assignments and the progress of DCFS reforms as they existed at the time the district court issued its March 2, 1990, injunction order. In light of the fact that the DCFS had voluntarily instituted a Reorganization Plan that could have affected the concerns addressed by plaintiffs, the district court was requested to make findings with respect to the extent of delay in caseworker assignment and reassignment at the time the injunction order issued.

After receiving submissions on these questions from the parties, the district court issued its memorandum opinion and findings on July 25, 1990. It is evident that the findings reflect the status of relevant DCFS activities at the time the injunction order issued because by agreement of the parties, the February 1990 logs of the DCFS regarding caseworker assignment were made an exhibit to a stipulated submission to the district court and the January and February activities of the DCFS were closely scrutinized by the district court.

The findings strongly support the district court's decision to issue an injunction. We will not attempt here to summarize these detailed findings, which are heavily cited to specific sources in the record. The district court reached the following conclusions: (1) the DCFS failed to show that its Reorganization Plan, begun during the summer of 1988 and purportedly completed by July 16, 1989, moved the agency closer to the "reasonable efforts" required by the AAA 8; (2) the DCFS demonstrated "a total lack of credibility" by pledging to make such changes and then failing to take effective steps to fulfill that pledge. 9

II. The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

In 1980 Congress enacted the AAA as an amendment to the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. Secs. 620-628, 670-679(a). It was in part an effort to "lessen the emphasis on foster care placement and * * * encourage greater efforts to find permanent homes for children either by making it possible for them to return to their own families or by placing them in adoptive homes." S.Rep. No. 96-336, reprinted in 1980 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News 1448, 1450 (96th Cong., 2d sess.). It sought to achieve those goals by providing states with "incentives to encourage a more active and systematic monitoring of children in the foster care system." Vermont Dep't of Social and Rehab. Servs. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 798 F.2d 57, 59 (2d Cir.1986), certiorari denied, 479 U.S. 1064, 107 S.Ct. 950, 93 L.Ed.2d 999. These goals are particularly evident in the requirement discussed below that states must make "reasonable efforts" to prevent the need for removal of children from their homes and to make it possible for children who have been taken from their homes to return to their homes. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 671(a)(15).

The provisions of the AAA are codified in two separate parts of Title IV of the Social Security Act. Title IV-B provides funds to the states for the improvement of child welfare services. 42 U.S.C. Secs. 620-628. Title IV-E provides reimbursement to the states for foster care maintenance and adoption assistance payments made by the states on behalf of eligible children. 42 U.S.C. Secs. 670-679(a). Federal funding is provided under the Title IV-B program for child welfare services "which are directed toward the accomplishment" of a list of enumerated purposes, which include the following: "preventing the unnecessary separation of children from their families by identifying family problems, assisting families in resolving their problems, and preventing breakup of the family where the prevention of child removal is desirable and possible"; "restoring to their families children who have been removed, by the provision of services to the child and the families";...

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