DCFS Investigation and Defense
If the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, or DCFS, has contacted you about a possible investigation, you must take these actions very seriously. This entity is responsible for looking into allegations of child abuse or neglect and determining if children should be removed from the home or if parenting should be supervised by the court. If DCFS finds that you abused or neglected a child, you may suffer serious consequences, such as having your children removed from your home and having your name listed on a child abuse database. Attorney David L. Freidberg has successfully represented clients in numerous types of DCFS investigations, helping these individuals fight allegations and protect their families.What triggers a DCFS investigation?
Generally, a DCFS investigation begins after the agency receives a phone call outlining the alleged abuse or neglect. There is a statewide hotline that individuals may call to report abuse or neglect. Some individuals, such as doctors, teachers, and others who work with children, are required to call the hotline to report possible abuse or neglect. The hotline worker is required to ask certain questions about the alleged abuse. Depending on the information provided by the caller, an investigation may be opened.What occurs during a DCFS investigation?
A DCFS investigation does not involve the police. However, depending on the nature of the allegations, the police may get involved with the investigation. Therefore, someone accused of abuse or neglect may be the subject of investigations by both the DCFS and local law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement and the DCFS may work together and exchange information in these investigations.
A single allegation can trigger multiple charges and cases. For example, a criminal charge of domestic violence or child endangerment may lead to a protective order being filed against the accused. If the couple has children, DCFS may launch an investigation into the home. If the couple separates or divorces, the allegations may be used against the accused in the family court case. Having the guidance of an attorney experienced in these realms is essential to obtaining favorable results, where possible. Your attorney will be able to use evidence gathered in each case to your advantage. Your attorney is also aware of all of the deadlines and requirements in each forum and will ensure that your legal rights are protected.
Once a formal investigation is initiated, an investigator will attempt to visit the child or children within 24 hours of the call to the hotline. The investigator will try to determine if there is an imminent threat to the children’s safety. The DCFS then has 60 days to complete its investigation.
Numerous individuals are interviewed during a DCFS investigation, such as the person who made the initial call to the hotline, doctors, teachers, the alleged abuser, and others who may possess relevant information. Depending on the child’s age, the child may also be interviewed.
The investigator may also make multiple visits to the child’s home, or other locations where the abuse may have occurred. If the child’s home is not safe, the investigator may recommend a safety plan. If a safety plan would not be effective in the home, the investigator has the power to remove the child from the home at any point in what is known as protective custody.After the DCFS investigation concludes, what happens?
If the DCFS finds that an individual abused or neglected a child, the case is labeled “indicated.” A case should only be labeled indicated if there is legitimate evidence of abuse or neglect. However, this is not always the case. Additionally, DCFS uses its own definitions of abuse or neglect in investigations. Unfortunately, many individuals whose investigations are indicated may not be guilty of abuse or neglect. Even worse, these individuals may have their names added to the State Central Register, which is Illinois’ child abuse database. Being listed on the State Central Register may have serious consequences, such as the inability to obtain certain types of employment, or being unable to foster or adopt a child.
If there is no evidence of abuse or neglect (or a risk of abuse or neglect) as defined by the DCFS, the case is labeled “unfounded.”Can I appeal a DCFS finding?
If you do not agree with the findings of the DCFS, you are able to appeal. In some claims, DCFS findings are simply without merit. In some court cases, it has been found that DCFS employees acted improperly to establish findings against someone accused of abuse or neglect.
To appeal a DCFS finding, notice of intent to appeal must be provided to DCFS. Next, a pre-hearing conference is conducted over the phone. Depending on the nature of the case, several pre-hearing conferences may be required.
The actual hearing for the appeal generally takes place in a DCFS office, as opposed to a courtroom. An administrative law judge will hear evidence from the individual appealing the DCFS decision, as well as the DCFS itself. Either party may present witnesses, documents, and other types of evidence to support their positions.
If the appellant loses the appeal, an additional appeal may be filed with the Illinois Circuit Court.How can an attorney help me?
An attorney experienced in DCFS investigations is a valuable asset when facing child abuse or neglect allegations. Your attorney knows what must be proven to support a finding of abuse or neglect and will fight frivolous allegations on your behalf. In addition, if multiple agencies become involved in your case, your attorney is able to handle each allegation and verify that investigations are properly conducted.If you are facing allegations from DCFS, contact David Freidberg today.
At The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C., we understand that facing an investigation from DCFS is frightening and stressful. From the second you hire our DCFS defense law firm, we work diligently to obtain the best results possible. To schedule your free consultation, call 312-560-7100 or visit us online. We are available 24/7 to assist you.