Fighting for children & people with disabilities during budget impasse

The state of Illinois continues to operate without a budget, owing to politics in Springfield. But that doesn’t mean our clients – who have been the victims of bad behavior by the State in the past – should suffer anew. The ACLU has been busy in federal court working to guarantee that children under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and people with developmental disabilities continue to receive promised services as the political discussion continues. We are able to take this action because of successful litigation (and ongoing consent decrees) in a number of cases.

In one case involving services for people with developmental disabilities (Ligas v. Norwood), we and our fellow advocates actually had to threaten the state with contempt for failing to make promised payments. Without adequate funding, people might have been left without the care of their providers who help many of them eat, get dressed, and take critical daily medication. Other clients with developmental disabilities may be forced to move from their familiar homes into inappropriate living situations. These services are essential to their survival.

We also have been working to keep programs funded for children who are under the care of the DCFS (in the base B.H. v. Sheldon). Without a funded program, children under DCFS’ care would suffer immediate harm; many would be forced into unsafe living conditions, including, in some cases, homelessness. Without timely payments to DCFS, its caregivers are unable to perform their jobs to ensure the safety and well-being of the children placed in DCFS custody. The disruption of these services exacerbates the traumas many of these children already have endured.

These situations have captured the media’s attention – and the attention of policymakers. On Tuesday, ACLU of Illinois Associate Legal Director Ben Wolf testified before a Senate committee about the urgency of the situation stating that, without state action, many children in DCFS custody may be left out in the street.

We will not relent until our most vulnerable are cared for. We will update you on this situation as it develops.