A mother of six children (defendant) was monitored by the Connecticut Department of Youth Services (DCYS) (plaintiff) beginning in 1976. A DCYS caseworker, Michelle Spicknall, visited the family home 27 times during the first nine months of 1979. Spicknall determined that the home environment was on the cusp of being problematic but that the children were happy and cared for by their mother. On September 4, 1979, defendant’s nine-month-old child, Christopher, died after being brought to a hospital. The cause of death was unknown. On his body were superficial marks that proved unrelated to his death. There were no internal injuries. A Connecticut statute permitted DCYS to take custody of children for 96 hours if the children were “in immediate physical danger.” On the basis of that law, DCYS took temporary custody of defendant’s children on September 5, 1979. Two days later, pursuant to a different statute allowing awards of temporary custody to protect child welfare, DCYS filed a petition to extend its custody of defendant’s children. At the hearing, Spicknall testified as to defendant’s home environment and beer-drinking habits. Christopher’s doctor testified to the lack of evidence linking the child’s death to his home environment or his mother’s conduct. The court concluded that temporary custody was justified. Defendant appealed, challenging the constitutionality of the temporary-custody statute.