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DCFS Issues

The Department of Children and Family Services The “DCFS”

Illinois has created a legal system that determines and tries to help and prevent the abuse of children. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has the primary responsibility of protecting children through the investigation of suspected abuse or neglect by parents and other caregivers in a position of trust or authority over the child. All allegations are considered serious and can have severe consequences, therefore it is important if you are the subject to a report to hire an attorney to protect your rights. The Domestic Violence Firm of David Olshansky is devoted to protecting people subject to DCFS investigations.

The Investigation and Its Process

The Investigation process is a very serious first step into a DCFS case, and usually if there is intervention by a skilled attorney who knows and understands the law things can be mitigated immediately. This is the reason an individual needs to hire competent legal counsel as soon as the investigation begins. An investigation into abuse or neglect can be started in many ways, usually by a concerned person, but often by a person who is required by law to contact the department if they suspect abuse.

One of the concerns in the investigation process is how the investigation starts. The catalyst of how the investigation gets underway needs to be examined. Any person can report suspected abuse or neglect of a child to the DCFS by simply calling the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873). There are many reasons that these anonymous calls can be made and the reasoning needs to be examined by someone experienced with the laws and legal rights for the accused. This call and any information about the identity of the caller is confidential and in many circumstances the child and the alleged abuser will not be given the identity of the reporter. Eventually a skilled advocate will most likely be able to ascertain the original outcry individual. There are some people who have professions that the law requires by statute to report any neglect or abuse by law. If someone involved in the following professions suspects that there is an issue they must report it to the authorities or risk losing their licence to perform their licensed occupation. Some of these professions include teachers and other school personnel, doctors, nurses, childcare workers police officers and other law enforcement investigators, and others with a position of trust with a child.

Who is Subject to the DCFS Investigation?

Although it most often that the allegation of abuse is made against a parent of the child, often times it can be made against someone else. The allegation of abuse or neglect can be against a parent or their romantic partner, an immediate relative or someone living in their home including siblings such as brothers and sisters and foster children that may reside in the home, a caretaker such as a babysitter or daycare worker, or any person responsible for the child’s welfare, such as a health care provider, educator, coach or youth program volunteer.

What Type of Conduct is Investigated?

The alleged mistreatment of the child can either result in injury or put the child at serious risk of injury. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, or mental and emotional injury. There can also be and allegation of neglect. Neglect is the failure of a parent or caretaker to meet “minimal parenting” standards for providing adequate supervision, food, clothing, medical care, shelter or other basic needs.

What Happens After the Allegation is Made?

Once the allegation is made the DCFS acts swiftly so secure the safety of the child. They will immediately try and locate the child and the alleged abuser. If the child is in the care of the alleged abuser the DCFS investigator will commonly come with the local police. At the initial contact the DCFS will start an investigation which could include interviews, and sometimes requiring a physical examination by a medical doctor. Depending on the information given to the DCFS and police, other law enforcement may also begin their own investigation. After an investigation is completed, it is possible criminal charges could be brought against the alleged abusive or neglecting person. Even if criminal charges are not initiated, the case can be brought to the Juvenile Child Protection Court where a parent could lose custody of the child or children. At this stage of the process the DCFS officer will initiate a “Safety Plan.” This plan is usually put into place for 60 days, however it is commonly extended for longer. The “Safety Plan” can include things such as removing the child and placing him or her into a relative’s home or foster home, not allowing the child to have contact with the alleged abuser, or the child, or other children, not being unsupervised around the alleged abuser. You have rights! It is important that as soon as you learn of the DCFS investigation to engage an attorney to protect your legal rights.

What Happens After a Person has Been Indicated for Abuse Or Neglect? Hearings and Appeals

You have the right to a hearing and an appeal to a decision from the Department of Child and Family Services. If the investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services investigator shows a determination that you are indicated for abuse or neglect by credible evidence then there was a finding that there was credible evidence for that indication.

There are separate types of proceedings and an indicated finding is a separate matter from any juvenile or criminal court proceeding. Once there is a indication of abuse or neglect you will receive notice of that finding, and you still have certain legal rights after the finding. You and your attorney will have the right to receive a copy of the investigative file, however the file will be redacted and be absent of certain information that the department is prohibited from releasing by law.

Your Right to Seek Judicial Review of The Director’s Decision

The indicated person will have the right to seek judicial review of the director’s final administrative decision after an administrative appeal hearing. The accused also has the right to request an administrative appeal hearing of an indicated finding, also known as an expungement appeal, which includes the right to a hearing at which the accused person who has been indicated and the department can present testimony and other evidence before a neutral administrative law judge who makes a recommended finding to the Director of the Department of Children and Family Services.

What if the Accused Doesn’t Appeal?

The accused can decide not to appeal a finding that indicates them for abuse or neglecy, However the name of the accuses will remain on the State Central Register for people who are indicated for a period of at least five years to fifty years The specific period of time that the record is included on the registration depends greatly on what the allegations are. The State Central Register is a confidential list of persons who have been found to be indicated perpetrators of child abuse and/or neglect. Information maintained on the department’s State Central Register is confidential and not open to the general public. However, state law requires that various employers such as day care centers, some schools and other facilities where people work directly with children, conduct a background check on potential employees or volunteers to determine if the person has been indicated for child abuse and/or neglect as part of the employment process.

How Long is the Appeal Process?

There are time limits that are set in place for the period of time that one is allowed to make and appeal. The request for an appeal must be made within sixty days after the date of notification sent by the DCFS. Afterwards there will be a prehearing, and a formal evidentiary hearing and then there will be a final administrative decision which must be completed within ninety days of receipt of the request for an appeal from the accused, unless the accused requests a continuance or for other reasons or a continuance is granted by the DCFS, any of the hearing officers, the Director through the Judicial process and laws that allow for the continuances. If the accused is a child care worker, the prehearing, formal evidentiary hearing and final administrative decision will have to be completed within 35 days, unless the accused requests a continuance or a continuance is agreed upon.