Civil Rights

Public Defender Fights Blanket Ban on Supervised Family Visits

Accusing Illinois state officials of disregarding the rights of families during the coronavirus pandemic, a top public defender has taken the extraordinary step of fighting for a temporary restraining order against the Department of Children and Family Services, which has barred most family visits.

In a court filing publicized by tweet Friday, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli said the child welfare agency’s suspension of all supervised visits between parents and their children in foster care has been done with “no thought to the tragic results on families, siblings, and our communities.”

In Chicago, Campanelli tweeted, the majority of those parents are “are black poor families who are suffering.”

She could not be reached for follow-up comment on the child welfare agency’s announcement in late March that it would suspend all supervised visits.

Campanelli’s office is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to halt the blanket suspension, and to force the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to determine whether supervised family visits can happen on a case-by-case basis. National experts on parent representation believe it is the first legal action taken to challenge an agency’s visitation policy during the pandemic.

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