Why You Need An Attorney For Illinois DCFS Cases

Were you contacted recently by the Illinois Department of Family Services (DCFS) about a possible child abuse or neglect case? This critical matter could result in severe consequences, including having your children taken from your home. There is a large network of people connected and obligated to the DCFS, and it is not unusual for false child abuse and neglect allegations to be reported. In this situation, you should always have an attorney to protect your rights to your children, so contact our Illinois DCFS lawyers today for a consultation about your case.

What Is A DCFS Investigation?

A DCFS investigation looks into reports of alleged child abuse or neglect. Typically, the department receives a phone call from a statewide hotline – (800) 25-ABUSE – that citizens can call to report alleged neglect or abuse of children.

Some parties, such as physicians, teachers, social workers, and others working with children, must call the hotline if they suspect neglect or abuse. The worker who takes the call is required by law to ask specific questions about the allegations. Depending on the information, the caller provides DCFS could open an investigation. DCFS investigations sometimes occur during divorces when one party accuses the other of child abuse.

What Happens During The DCFS Investigation?

An investigation by the Department of Family Services does not involve law enforcement, but depending on the facts, the police could take part at some point. Thus, if you are accused of child abuse or neglect, you could be investigated both by law enforcement and the DCFS. The police and the department may work together and provide information to each other during this process.

If a single allegation has been made against you, there could be several cases and charges. For instance, if you are charged with child endangerment or domestic violence, there could be a protective order file. If you and your partner have children, the abuse and neglect allegations could be used against you in a divorce and child custody case. It is essential to have an experienced DCFS attorney help you to obtain a favorable result as the investigation unfolds.

After the DCFS starts its investigation, the investigator will try to visit the children within about 24 hours of the hotline phone call. The investigator will try to determine if the child’s safety is under imminent threat. The investigation must be completed within 60 days.

How Long Will The DCFS Investigation Last?

The department has 60 days to finish its investigation. During the investigation, the DCFS will determine the following issues:

  • Determine if there is credible evidence that the child was neglected or abused
  • Determine if the child is at risk of future neglect and abuse in the home
  • Determine if the department can help the child and family with services

What Is The DCFS Allowed To Do In Your Home?

The DCFS investigator will work according to the Child Endangerment and Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP). The investigation may include visiting where the child lives and other places where abuse or neglect occurs. The purpose is to determine if the child’s home is safe. If the home is unsafe, the investigator could ask you to set up a safety plan that could temporarily place the child with a relative or friend.

If the DCFS investigator thinks the safety plan will not reduce the risk to the child, they can take the child from home without your consent. This is known in Illinois as protective custody, but they can only take the child for up to 48 hours. If they want to keep the child longer than that, they must open a juvenile court case, which is known as taking temporary custody.

If DCFS tells you they plan to take temporary custody, you should also get information about a court hearing and attend those hearings with your DCFS lawyer. The agency can also terminate or restrict the child’s contact with you, the other parent, or siblings if they need to safeguard their health and safety.

What Happens If Are Indicted for Child Neglect Or Abuse?

If you are indicated for child neglect or abuse, the DCFS investigator performed their investigation and decided there is sufficient evidence that the abuse occurred. If a finding is indicated, it is a separate matter from any criminal proceeding against the accused. If you receive a notice of an indicated determination, you are entitled to certain rights, including:

  • The right to see a copy of the investigation report, unless the department must legally withhold certain information.
  • The right to ask for an administrative appeal of the indicated finding; this is also called an expungement appeal. This includes a right to a hearing where you and the department may offer evidence before an administrative law judge.
  • The right to ask for judicial review of the final administrative decision in the case.

If you want to appeal, you must request within 60 days after you receive the finding notice from the department. The case’s prehearing, evidentiary hearing, and administrative decision must be finished within 90 days of receiving your appeal request. If you work in childcare, the evidentiary hearing and administrative decision should be completed in 35 days. A childcare worker is defined as someone who works with children directly, as well as anyone who owns or manages a childcare facility.

If you do not appeal the finding, your name will be on the State Central Register for at least five years, and up to 50 years. This is a confidential list of individuals who are found to be child abuse or neglect perpetrators in Illinois.

This information is not accessible by the public, but some employers, schools, and other facilities that work with minors will do a background check on potential workers to determine if the person was ever indicated for child neglect or abuse. While appealing is a hassle for most people, it is possible that an indicated finding could affect your job or ability to keep your children, so it can be worth doing.

How Can An Attorney Help In A DCFS Case?

A DCFS attorney is important if you face child abuse and neglect allegations. Your lawyer knows what has to be proven to support this claim and will vigorously fight any frivolous accusation. If more than one state agency is involved, your lawyer can handle each one separately and ensure that every investigation is conducted correctly.

Contacting a DCFS attorney as soon as you know about an investigation against you is essential. DCFS can be unorganized and inefficient, and it is possible that investigators will push the bounds of the law. If this occurs, your rights could be affected, leading to serious problems. But an experienced DCFS attorney will work with you to protect your and your child’s rights.

Can You Sue DCFS?

Yes, you can sue the department if you believe your rights were violated, but it is difficult. The DCFS can be sued for gross negligence, abuse, or violating someone’s civil rights. If you want to file suit, you should talk to a DCFS or civil rights attorney.

Suing DCFS For Ignoring Abuse

Unfortunately, there are legitimate cases of child abuse and neglect in Illinois, and sometimes the department does not step in until the child suffers severe abuse or even dies. For example, someone could call the hotline several times to report the abuse of a child. But DCFS did not take the matter seriously or remove the child from the home. If the child ends up severely injured, a family member could try to sue DCFS for ignoring child abuse.

Suing For Civil Rights Violations

When a DCFS investigator is doing their job, they act under the protection of law because they do their work on the state government’s behalf, which provides them authority. If the investigator violates your civil rights, they could be liable because they act under the color of law. For instance, the investigator must be authorized to visit your house and search your residence.

DCFS investigators must adhere to due process and allow you to tell your side before they take action. Also, DCFS is not permitted to discriminate against anyone because of their race, disability, ethnic or national origin, religion, etc. If you think the investigator is discriminating against you, talk to your DCFS attorney immediately.

Suing For Gross Negligence

If the DCFS investigator takes the child from your home under the mistaken belief he was abused, it may be possible to sue for gross negligence. For example, suppose your ex-spouse makes several calls to the abuse and neglect hotline and accuses you of child abuse. If the DCFS workers take your child from the home without conducting a proper investigation, this could be gross negligence. Proving gross negligence is difficult, but an experienced attorney can help you.

Contact Our Illinois DCFS Lawyer Now

Facing a DCFS investigation alone is stressful and frightening. Your relationship with your children is at stake, and it is essential to take legal action immediately. Please contact our Illinois DCFS lawyer at Law Office of Fedor Kozlov, P.C., today at (847) 241-1299 for legal assistance.

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