DeShaney v. Winnebago County S.S. eLLIE WENNERS

Joshua DeShaney- 4 years old

Background Information

Short story: Joshua DeShaney (4) was under his father's custody who physically abused him so severely, that he ended up with permanent brain damage and was rendered profoundly retarded. His mother tried sue the Winnebago Department for Social Services for taking no action to remove Joshua from his father's home. She claimed that they "violated his liberty interest in bodily integrity, in violation of his rights under the substantive componant of the fourteenth amendment Due Process Clause." The Supreme Court stated; "the Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security; while it forbids the State itself to deprive individuals of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, its language cannot fairly be read to impose an affirmative obligation on the State to ensure that those interests do not come to harm through other means."

Detailed story: In 1982, Randy DeShaney's second wife complained to the police (during their divorce) that he was hitting the boy-causing marks- and was a prime case for child abuse. The father denied this, and Winnebago D.S.S. investigated no further. After Joshua was admitted to a local hospital from suffering injuries from his father, he was given a "Child Protection Team", which consisted of many people with authority. The team considered his situation , and decided that there was not enough information to remove Joshua from his father's custody. The did, however, enroll Joshua in a preschool program, advise Randy DeShaney's girlfriend to move out, and provided his father with certain counseling services, for which he entered into a voluntary agreement. Because of this recommendation from Joshua's Child Protection Team, the Juvenile Court dismissed his case and returned him to his father. But once again, after only one month had passed, Joshua was admitted to another hospital with suspicious injuries. The emergency room personal called the Winnebago D.S.S. caseworker, who stated there was not enough evidence to remove him from his father's home. However, the caseworker did comply to make monthly visits over the span of six months to the DeShaney residents. She took note of more suspicious injuries on Joshua's head, and that the girlfriend had not moved out. She also noticed that Joshua had not been enrolled in school. The caseworker recorded this information, but took no further steps to ensure Joshua's safety. In 1984, Randy DeShaney beat Joshua (4) within an inch of his life, causing him to fall into a life-threatening coma.

Cartoon of DeShaney v. Winnebago

So what?

This case is very important today because it brings awareness to many states. Children can now find a safe, healthy, and happy home with the support of Child Care Centers. And if they are faced with the injustice of child abuse, the Supreme Court can now assure their safety and take them seriously.

additional information

Appeal process: Before this case was taken to the Supreme Court, DeShaney had to go through the process of going to the Juvenile Court, and then to the United States Court of Appeals.





Created with images by Anthony Garand - "We the People"

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