If you have any questions regarding DCFS or DCFS Defense, please contact us for a Free DCFS Defense Consultation.
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible in Illinois to investigate claims of child abuse and neglect. When someone calls the DCFS Hotline (1-800-25-ABUSE), DCFS decides whether the person calling the hotline has reasonable cause to believe a child under 18 has been abused or neglected and the report meets the factors determined by the state to be accepted as a child abuse and neglect report. If DCFS decides to take the reported abuse, he or she gets more information about the case, and the information constitutes a report of child abuse or neglect. The next step is a DCFS investigation.
What happens in a DCFS investigation?
First, someone at DCFS is assigned to investigate the case. This person is often from a division in DCFS called the Division of Child Protection (DCP for short). This person will generally talk to a number of different people. These people include:
•the person making the report
•the person accused of abusing or neglecting a child
•other people in the family, and
•persons who may be able to provide some helpful information about the circumstances.
Once again, DCFS regulations list all of the people who must be talked to. In certain investigations, DCFS conducts its investigation jointly with the police. The purpose of the DCFS investigation is to find out if the child was abused and to decide whether the child (or children) are at risk in a home. If you are the person being investigated for possible child abuse or neglect, you should know that the investigation can affect your life in a number of different ways. Some of the main ways it can affect your life are:
•A DCFS call can lead to a criminal investigation of what you are accused of doing and criminal charges;
•DCFS investigation can lead to your losing custody of your child and/or termination of parental rights; or
•DCFS can believe that you have abused or neglected child, but leave the child in your home while requiring you to follow a plan;
•DCFS can also decide to keep the case from Juvenile Court if you agree to place the child with someone else. Sometimes this will mean that you place the child in someone else’s guardianship, like a relative.
You should also know that a call to DCFS can affect you if you are in the middle of a child custody proceeding. For example, if you are in a child custody dispute with a former spouse, and it is learned that DCFS has investigated you, a judge may want to learn what the result of the investigation was and why you were being investigated.
If DCFS decides that there is credible evidence that you have abused or neglected a child, it designates the case as “indicated.” An indicated report goes into the permanent DCFS record called the Central Registry. Reports are kept in the Central Registry for a time period from 5 to 50 years depending on the severity of the incident. For some people, an indicated report can keep them from getting a job in a certain field.
In other cases, the result of an investigation is that DCFS decides that there is no credible evidence of abuse or neglect. In such circumstances DCFS designates the case as “unfounded.” In these circumstances DCFS usually destroys all records of the investigation within 36 months. But the person who is being investigated can ask DCFS to keep the records. Some people who want to show that they are being harassed have asked DCFS to keep the records of unfounded investigations.
Persons who are “indicated” by a DCFS report have a right to appeal the finding that the report was indicated. The best line of defense against a possible DCFS investigation is to contact us for a consultation.
If you are being investigated by DCFS, please contact us for a Free DCFS Defense Consultation.