Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed March 21, 2013
Julie Q. v. Department of Children & Family Services, 2013 IL 113783
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (2d) 100643.
JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Burke took no part in the decision.
In 2009, Julie Q., was reported to the DCFS by her estranged husband concerning recent events involving alcoholism, and an investigation commenced. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services made an indicated finding of child neglect and an administrative law judge issued a recommendation and opinion that the mother in this case, Julie Q., had created an environment injurious to the health and welfare of her minor daughter. All this took place under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. That act provides for DCFS’s receipt of reports of possible child abuse or neglect, directs the agency to protect children, and provides for a registry of those found to have abused or neglected a child.
Julie Q. filed a complaint for administrative review, challenging the administrative law judge’s conclusions and the Department’s indicated finding, but the circuit court upheld these results. The appellate court reversed and the supreme court, in this decision, agreed with that reversal.
The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act permitted a finding of neglect, prior to 1980, to be based on placing a child in an environment injurious to the child’s welfare. This “injurious environment” language was deleted in 1980 and was not restored until 2012, after the events at issue in this case.
However, pursuant to the DCFS’s authority to make rules necessary to carry out its duties, it had, as to the time period at issue here, promulgated rules describing specific incidents of harm constituting abuse or neglect and included among them “Substantial Risk of Physical Injury/Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare.”
In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court held that, after the legislature specifically removed the injurious environment language from the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, the DCFS was without authority to reestablish, in the Act, an injurious-environment definition of neglect. The regulatory language under which the agency proceeded here is, therefore, void. The fact that the Juvenile Court Act, a different statute, includes injurious environment in its definition of neglect does not call for a different result, because the Juvenile Court Act serves a different purpose.
The appellate court was affirmed in its reversal of the circuit court’s judgment.