From WH: How to sue DCFS for lying and removing children wrongfully

How to Sue Child Protective Services

Each state has its own Child Protective Services (CPS) agency that is responsible for protecting the health and welfare of children. CPS investigations can be traumatic and stressful for both parents and children. However, emotional distress alone does not give you the right to sue CPS. Since CPS social workers are government agents, they cannot act in ways that violate your established civil rights. An overzealous CPS worker may violate your constitutional right to due process, or your protection from unreasonable search and seizure. When that happens, you may be able to sue for monetary damages.[1]


EditBuilding Your Case

  1. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 1

    Create a chronological outline of events. Beginning with your first encounter with CPS, draft an account of each encounter or communication you’ve had with CPS social workers and other staff members.[2]

    • Write down the names, job titles, and direct contact information of every individual at CPS who contacted you or communicated with you in any way.
    • You also want outlines of any other activities that have anything to do with your children or the reasons CPS became involved with your children.
  2. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 2

    Gather any related documents and other evidence. You should already have been documenting every interaction you had with CPS. All of these records are now evidence you can use in your lawsuit.[3]

    • If you had written documents that you can no longer locate, make a note of them. CPS should have copies as well, and you can request them later.
    • You also want to gather any documents that have anything to do with the care of your children. For example, if you’re home schooling your children, gather school schedules, assignments, and curricula and make copies.
  3. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 3

    Consult an attorney. Civil rights lawsuits in federal court are notoriously complicated. If you’ve decided to sue CPS for violating your constitutional rights, you need an experienced civil rights attorney to represent you.[4]

    • Civil rights attorneys typically offer a free initial consultation, so you can use this opportunity to speak to several attorneys. That can help you choose the best attorney for your case.
    • These lawsuits can drag on for a long time. Pick an attorney who is passionate about your case and who you get along with – you’ll be spending a lot of time with them, and discussing some potentially sensitive issues.
    • If you have been brought up on criminal charges of child abuse or neglect, you may already have a criminal defense lawyer. Ask them for a referral to a civil rights attorney who can help you sue CPS.
  4. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 4

    Identify an established right. The first hurdle you’ll face is pointing to a specific, established constitutional right that CPS violated while working with you and your children. This is a legal argument. Your attorney will review your documents and notes to determine which of your civil rights have been violated in your situation.[5]

    • This is part of the reason documenting all of your interactions with CPS is so important. Something that seems unfair to you may not necessarily rise to the level of a constitutional violation. However, something you thought insignificant might actually be a big deal.
  5. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 5

    Calculate your damages. You may have heard of parents who sued CPS for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. However, the amount of money must be directly related to the violation of your rights.[6]

    • Your attorney will start with actual damages, if you have any. For example, if you and your spouse have been seeing a counselor as a result of the trauma you experienced from dealing with CPS, that expense may be considered actual damages.
    • Additional damages, known as punitive damages, may be available to you if the actions of the CPS social workers involved in your case were particularly egregious.


EditInitiating Your Lawsuit

  1. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 6

    File a complaint. Typically, complaints are not extremely detailed. However, a complaint in federal court that alleges violations of civil rights requires more information than the typical complaint. If the violations aren’t explained correctly, the lawsuit may be thrown out. This is why you need an experienced civil rights attorney.[7]

    • You don’t have to prove anything or submit any evidence when you file your complaint. At this point, you’re merely making allegations.
    • Your attorney will file your complaint in the federal district court that has jurisdiction over the county where the CPS agency is located. You may have to pay the $400 filing fee, or your attorney may pay it and add the amount to the costs of your lawsuit.
  2. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 7

    Have CPS served with the complaint. Once your complaint is filed, CPS must be notified of the lawsuit so that it has the opportunity to respond. Your attorney typically will have the complaint served on the attorneys of record for CPS.[8]
  3. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 8

    Evaluate the response from CPS. When CPS is served with your complaint, the agency has a limited period of time to file an answer with the court. A copy of that written answer will be delivered to your attorney.[9]

    • Your attorney will go over the response with you. Typically, the answer will deny all of the allegations and raise the defense of qualified immunity.
    • The response from CPS may include a motion for summary judgment. Similar to a motion to dismiss, this motion argues you have failed to state a claim for which the court can provide any legal or monetary relief.
  4. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 9

    Attend the summary judgment hearing. When you sue CPS, the agency will likely raise the defense of qualified immunity. While technically a defense, if the court grants the agency (and its social workers) qualified immunity, you won’t be able to sue the agency at all.[10]

    • When CPS argues it is entitled to qualified immunity, the judge must hold a hearing to decide this question before you can move forward with the lawsuit. Until this matter is decided, you won’t be able to do any further work or information gathering on your lawsuit.
    • Your attorney and the attorneys for CPS will submit lengthy briefs to the court arguing both sides of the issue. The judge may decide the question after reading these briefs, or they may have a hearing in court.
    • If the judge denies CPS qualified immunity, you still may not be able to move forward to the next stage of litigation. CPS has the right to appeal that decision and argue to an appellate court that the agency is entitled to qualified immunity.


EditGoing to Trial

  1. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 10

    Send written questions and requests to CPS. Provided the judge rules that CPS is not entitled to qualified immunity, you will proceed to the discovery phase. You will work with your attorney to create written questions and requests for documents, which must be answered by CPS.[11]

    • You will request CPS’s entire case file related to your family, as well as any internal documents, including emails, that are related to the investigation of your family.
    • The documents and answers to questions may reveal additional problems or violations that you didn’t know about before.
  2. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 11

    Depose the social workers involved. A deposition is an interview under oath. Since so much of your case relies on the subjective beliefs and interpretations of the social workers involved, these depositions will be crucial.[12]

    • You may or may not need to attend the deposition. Your attorney may want you there, or they may decide that it’s better if you’re not there.
    • Regardless of whether you attend, your attorney will go over the deposition with you afterward and explain how it affects your case.
  3. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 12

    Prepare for your own deposition. The attorneys for CPS will likely want to depose you as well. Your attorney will meet with you at least once to go over likely questions you’ll be asked and explain to you how to respond to deposition questions.[13]

    • Generally, you want to answer the questions directly and honestly, but refrain from rambling or further conversation. For example, if you are asked a yes/no question, your answer would be “yes” or “no,” without elaboration.
  4. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 13

    Answer questions from CPS. Just as you sent written questions to CPS, the agency will likely send written questions for you to answer as well. Your attorney will draft the specific answers after consultation with you.[14]

    • Your attorney may object to some of the questions. If they do, they’ll explain to you why you don’t have to answer those questions.
    • Even though these questions are in writing, they are still considered to be under oath. Answer each question as honestly and accurately as you can. If you don’t remember something, don’t guess.
  5. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 14

    Participate in pre-trial hearings. Judges typically schedule numerous hearings to make sure the litigation is on track and progressing on schedule. You won’t have to attend many of these hearings or meetings personally. Your attorney will update you on what happened.[15]
  6. Image titled Sue Child Protective Services Step 15

    Evaluate any settlement offers. Lawsuits in federal court seldom make it to trial. Discovery can drag on for months, and most litigants prefer settling the case to avoid the uncertainty of trial. The judge may encourage settlement talks or preside over a settlement conference.[16]

    • Any settlement offers from CPS will be communicated to your attorney. Your attorney will present the offer to you and offer their advice. Regardless of what your attorney recommends, the decision of whether to accept or reject the settlement is solely your own.

6 thoughts on “From WH: How to sue DCFS for lying and removing children wrongfully

  1. I am seeking an attorney on a contingency basis to file a Federal Lawsuit 1983 42 USC 1982 Section 1983 for Violation of my Civil Rights for the following reasons and others:

    Background of the case:

    On June 21, 2019, I was served with a Notice of Change of Placement. My three grandchildren were removed due to a hotline call of abuse by one of the children therapists. My three grandchildren were removed from me without a court order or within 48 to 72 hours later.

    My sisters(2) were called to my home, as one is a criminal lawyer to guide and calm me down.
    There was no imminent danger to these children as the oldest child just arrived home from summer work an hour before, showered and took a nap, the other 6 year old and 6 month old and I just had dinner ready for family night, and the baby 6 months old was being changed.

    Three of the agency’s Shelter, Inc. workers showed up with this Notice of Change of Placement: The Supervisor, the Caseworker, and their Investigator Social Worker of Shelter, Inc.

    The Chicago Police department was summoned to my house because I had no knowledge as to why they were taking my children without being informed prior too. I ask the police to observe the children for any abuse or neglect. According to the Chicago Police Department, there was no evidence of abuse or neglect found. ( I have the report)

    On June 22, 2019, the next day, DCFS Investigator came to investigate me and my other daughter who was at the time 19 years old. Also, the Chicago Police Criminal Detectives showed up (three). I was asked by a DCFS investigator where the children were and my response was I did not know. I was then told the children should not have been taken before she got to investigate.

    June 23, 2019, I filed an appeal for the Notice of Placement I was served (was not held within 5 days to convene the appeal). July 8, 2019, DCFS, GAL, Caseworker, Social workers, Catholic Charities, my attorney, etc. attended as a result DCFS Clinical felt it was not in the children best interest to return due to violations of the Protection Plan and Not in the Children Best Interest. July 17, 2019, the Final Clinical Decision made, again not in the Children Best Interest to return and their decision was to adopt the July 8, recommendation.

    An Appeal filed to address the Final Decision of the Clinical Review
    Prehearing in August 2019.

    Appeal Hearing: Prehearing stated in August 2019 and finalized on March 19, 2020 because the case worker filed another frivolous claim of Substantial Injurious Environment on January 30, 2020. This case was unfounded also.

    The Appeal Hearing Administrative Judge and the Director of DCFS concurred her recommendation to return the children to me Granted because I have proved by preponderance of evidence that I did not violate the Protection Plan and that the case worker was being petty minded and disingenuous. In fact, the caseworker perjured herself by being dishonest to the judge. This I have on the transcripts provided.

    May 7, 2020, Clinical Summary Staffing to address the ALJ’s recommendations as well as the Director of DCFS return the children home. May 10, 2020 a neutral party was to begin this assessment. The assessment did not take place until October alleging I refused to cooperate- which is not true.

    DCFS Legal, the GAL, the Caseworker, and Shelter Inc. say the children do not want to come back to my home.

    The 1st DCFS charged filed decision was unfounded in November 19, 2019, hotline 6/20/2019
    The 2nd DCFS charged filed 1/30/2020 was unfounded in May 12, 2020

    I have both transcripts from June 14, 2019 Permanency Hearing Juvenile Court Hearing and the transcripts from the Appeal Hearing ALJ. Where the therapist could not identify any burn but called the hotline reporting she saw a fresh burn. Further my granddaughter who was 15 years old at the time told the therapist I did not burn her. The therapist called the social worker and the social worker told her to call the hotline. Due to our differences and my reporting their unethical and professional behavior.

    There has been conflict with me, the caseworker, the GAL because I question the decision made on behalf of my children. I have reported the behavior of the case worker and the agency. I have requested a new agency to the judge and the GAL. Which was denied. The judge stated to find a way to work with the agency.

    Because of my concerns and reports, I am being retaliated against. I have an attorney on this matter, but he does not do the Civil Rights filing.

    If you are interested, please contact me at 708 417-4132 or at my email

    • the first step in all of this is to get a complete copy of the 1) DCFS records. you can foia these, have the mom or dad sign permission for you to have them; 2) the states attorney has a file, demand a copy of the file and 3) your attorney should have a file, be sure to get a complete copy of your file; 4) get all the transcripts then you can hire an attorney. call me if you have further questions about getting your records on the children that were removed. you have 30 days to file a notice of appeal after any of your rights have been terminated. I am so sorry this happened to you. 773.255.7608. but the first step is to get all the records together.

  2. I just need my kids been gone almost a year the dcfs caseworker been lying to the judge and My attorney was not help me with nothing I lost everything I had I been homeless for a year I had section 8 for 12 years to lose it all no please please somebody help me please I took of all my children I never put them in danger or nothing please somebody

  3. My daughter has just got 2 of 5 kids that Dcfs has taken. She got 2 taken almost 10 years ago . She had a trace of marijuana in her system when her son was born and less than 24 hours they tested baby again and found none in her nor baby. Her son and daughter that was at home while she delivered baby they came in and took them both from her before she even was released they started a cycle of hell . They never once told her who her lawyer was they appointed to her . A year after kids were took they told her who he was and they were doing court dates without telling her saying she didnt need to be there. Sending letters telling her the visits of her kids and when we got there they would tell her she was either to late or that it was a day before numerous times this happen.. 3 years we went through this and no one heard her when she got her kids taken it took my daughter too.. so the third kid she had was found out by them and the day she went to court to sign rights away she said she wouldnt so it and they told her unless she didnt want them in the child’s life that she carrying she better. They even got her on flunking a drug test and she knew she didnt and told them to send it off. The test was damaged in the mail and they used it against her and said they had to count it as a positive text. So she signed her rights off and after she had her 3rd child a baby girl. She had a beautiful home and job and was doing great for herself trying to move on from the first lose. She was home one evening making dinner for her and her at time 18mon old girl and a guy came into her house on rampage and proceeds to knock her unconscious twice with her daughter in her arms . She came to with him standing over her with a letter opener going to stab her she was able to kick it out of his hands and grabbed it and trying to get on her feet and stabbed him in the chest not knowing she had stabbed in in the heart killing him. Where than she wrapped her and baby in sheet and ran out door screaming and made it to township building of town. And they were having meeting and she was a bloody mess and clothes torn off and collapsed with grief. She never was charged for anything didnt spend a second in jail and was considered a hero in the town and the detectives said if she wouldnt have done what she done 2 body bags wouldve came out of the house instead of one.she was rushed to hospital her and baby and she was admitted and family services check baby out and called us to come get the baby and said baby was fine and not a scratch to get her out of hospital and home with us. The detective told us not to take my daughter to her house when they released her from hospital cause of the trauma it would cause .wwe took her and baby home with us and 5 days later Dcfs came in to do welfare check they said on baby and took her out of my arms and they said cause the baby couldve been hurt they were taking baby. And they did. My daughter never seen her daughter again for almost three years. My daughter spiraled down hill. She couldnt take another lose and she wadnt told again of court dates and they never let her see her kid and no one was doing anything about it I called the governor of state the Senator and reproductive everyone I could to get her story told . No one helped.. now she just had Dcfs called on her by a doctor who couldve killed her son by not reading his charts and putting him on a medication that couldve killed him. Which brings me to she had a baby 2019 he wasnt even suppose to have made it thru birth. He has 7 heart defects and is a red flag baby. Mind you for instance a few seffect are his heart is on opposite side and flipped backwards and he is running on 1 chamber out of 4. That alone is unbelievable. He is a very sick baby. She can tell you any and all medical issues of her son and were lucky to have him at all and 4weeks ago we were told he has two years and to put him on make a wish list. The doctor that’s called Dcfs for going over her and taking him of the medicine that could kill himdcfs came and took kids for medical neglect even thou the heart doctors confirmed they told her they came in and drug tested her and said she had drugs in her system and knowing she didnt she went to her doctors and had them take one in which said she was clean they told her they were keeping her kids cause she is mentally incapable of taking care of her kids due to her past. They just had a hearing to place kids in foster care they said my house is a danger due to drugs or whatever and I couldnt take them. And I have never had any run in with law for anything especially with drugs of any kind. My background is clean and my fiancee hasnt had any charges or been in trouble for 17 years. He had one charge concerning drugs. 17years ago. And because of here say they are going on that. They are gonna be place in foster care on 24th of August 2021 and no one will listen to us they close the door in our faces and we cant get any help. I am at a lose and the overwhelming gut wrenching pain I see my daughter going thru. And the kids being ripped out of our home to strangers even after doctors warned them that this could really affect my grandson and that my daughter is an amazing mother who knows about him and the issues she will finish the doctors sentences before them. I’m begging for help from someone . Please help my daughter just be heard and have this looked at and see if or how many other young ladies this has or is happening too. 5 kids .. it’s more than a person can bare. I need help before it’s to late. I dont have alot of money nor does she . We dont have a support team behind us and we ain’t nobody so we ain’t being heard and kids are being ripped out of our lives and there’s nothing we can do. Please I begging somebody help my daughter…

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