May 18, 2020 – Less than a week after filing a federal discrimination lawsuit alleging the Village of Midlothian is violating the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act through the discriminatory application of its own ordinances, Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness, Inc. filed today for a temporary restraining order seeking to prevent the Village from shuttering the state’s first children’s quarantine center for Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) youth in care affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The filing comes only days after the Cook County medical examiner’s office reported the youngest death from COVID-19.
“The Village seems to have no empathy, no sense urgency, even while the COVID-19 virus is killing children in the communities around us. I believe we all have a particular responsibility when it comes to the children in the DCFS system, the majority of whom are African American and Hispanic/Latino, and all of whom have experienced trauma as a result of being victims of abuse and neglect,” said Raul Garza, Aunt Martha’s President and CEO.
“Aunt Martha’s is committed to caring for these children and living up to that responsibility. We hope that the residents of the Village of Midlothian, who have supported us as their neighbor for the past eight years, will urge their local officials to do the same.”
The program in question is called the Children’s Quarantine Center (CQC). It is designed to provide children up to the age of 18 who have tested positive for COVID-19 with a home-like setting where they can be cared for and supervised around the clock until they can safely return to their prior placement.
Last Wednesday, an attorney for the Village said in response to the lawsuit that Aunt Martha’s needs a special use permit, which would require a public hearing, before the home could be used for COVID-19 youths, or anyone, under the age of 18. Yet, according to the lawsuit, Midlothian modified its zoning code to allow for such group home-type residential facilities, staffed around the clock and housing persons – including minors and wards of the state – in June 2012.
“This case is not about zoning or code violations, nor is it about safety hazards,” said Ricardo Meza, counsel for Aunt Martha’s. “The statements and deeds of local officials over the past month have made it clear they have no intention of complying with the Village’s own ordinances, let alone federal laws protecting the rights of Aunt Martha’s and the children it serves. That’s discrimination plain and simple,” continued Mr. Meza.