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The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Illinois has the responsibility for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect. When conducting their initial investigation, DCFS can ask the Juvenile Court for an order removing a child from the custodian or suspending rights to unsupervised visitation. DCFS also has the power, under certain circumstances, to ask the court for an order terminating parental rights, thus revoking the parental relationship to that child.
If you receive notice from DCFS regarding a suspicion of child abuse or neglect, you should consult an attorney immediately. Having an indicated finding against you or another household member could have potentially serious ramifications. These findings can affect certain types of employment, especially if you work in healthcare or with children. An indicated finding, in some instances, also can lead to the risk of losing custody of your children. It is important to know your rights and responsibilities in these instances in order to protect yourself and your children. Our office can guide through the DCFS process and help to secure the interests of your family. If you are contacted by DCFS call us at 630-780-8242 to receive assistance on the best way to proceed.
After a suspected report of child abuse or neglect is received by DCFS, a caseworker will be assigned to investigate. This usually involves the worker speaking to all parties involved including, parents, siblings, household members, caretakers, medical providers, and anyone else they may deem to have some knowledge of the incident in question. DCFS caseworkers have 60 days from the initial report to complete their investigation.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the parties are required by law to be notified of the final determination of that investigation. The caseworker can make one of two determinations; either the case is “indicated” or is “unfounded”. When a case in “indicated” it means that DCFS has found some credible evidence that a child has been abused or neglected. An “unfounded” report means that there was not enough evidence to determine that the child abuse or neglect has occurred.
An “indicated” finding by DCFS should be taken seriously and immediate action needs to be done. A party has a right to request an administrative appeal of this finding. This request must be made within 60 days of the day you receive it.
An administrative appeal is a hearing with witnesses before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). At the end of the hearing the ALJ makes a determination whether to uphold the indicated finding and makes a recommendation to the Director of DCFS. If the Director rejects this recommendation of the ALJ an appeal can be made to the circuit court.
When a DCFS cases worker makes a determination that it is in the best interest of a child to be removed from a home for safety measures, they must bring an action to court with 48 hours of the removal of that child. Within 48 hours of the removal the court conducts a temporary custody hearing and makes a determination as to whether there is an immediate need for that child to be placed in the care and custody of DCFS. The Judge can take into account alternatives to removal, services, visitation and placement. Removal of a child is traumatic for all parties involved and should always be considered as a last option.
If a child is placed in the care of DCFS, a family conference must be held within 55 days of the removal with the parents, attorneys, caseworkers and judge to discuss a case plan. This conference also addresses the progress of the parents, children and what must be done before the child can be returned home.
Within 120-150 days after the removal a dispositional hearing must be held to determine whether a child can be returned home safely with or without supervision by the court.
If the court found at the adjudicatory meeting that the child was abused or neglected, within 120 to 150 days after the removal a dispositional is held to determine whether the child can be safely returned home, with or without further supervision by the court.
If the child remains in fostercare, then the court will conduct permanency hearings every 6 months until the case is closed.
Being investigated by DCFS is scary and stressful. Our office can guide you through the DCFS process and help to secure the interests of your family. If you are contacted by DCFS call us at 630-780-8242 to receive assistance on the best way to proceed and ensure that you are properly represented.