The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for the protection of minors by investigating suspected child abuse or neglect by parents or other caregivers who are in a position of trust or authority with the child. When someone suspects a minor might be in danger, he or she has a responsibility to report it to the authorities for further investigation. Under Illinois law, most professionals in education, health care, and law enforcement are considered Mandated Reporters and therefore, they are required to report suspected abuse or neglect. In some cases, criminal charges may be filed if there is proof of abuse. In addition, child custody orders may be modified if it is found that a parent or guardian is harming the child. An Illinois DCFS decision regarding child abuse or neglect can be appealed with the legal guidance of an attorney.
What Constitutes Child Abuse and Neglect?
As defined by Illinois law, child abuse occurs when the following people mistreat a minor (child under the age of 18):
- A parent or a parent’s romantic partner
- An immediate family member or person who resides in the same house
- A caretaker such as a babysitter or daycare center employee
- Any individual who is responsible for the child’s welfare (health care provider, educator, coach)
The mistreatment may result in injury to the child or place the child in a situation where he or she is at serious risk of injury. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, or mental. Neglect is defined as the failure of a parent or caretaker to meet “minimal parenting” standards. In other words, not providing for basic needs such as adequate supervision, food, clothing, medical care, or shelter.
Filing a DCFS Appeal
If you or someone you know is facing a DCFS investigation for alleged child abuse or neglect, it is essential to have a skilled attorney by your side to represent you in the appeal process. It is important to note that you only have 60 days from date on your notice to appeal the DCFS decision. Within 20 days of filing an appeal, you should receive a copy of the DCFS file.
The next step is an in-person hearing, which is typically held within 70 days of filing the appeal. A pre-hearing takes place by phone 15 days before the actual hearing as a way to prepare and understand what is involved in the formal hearing. You can request that the DCFS investigators appear at the hearing, and you may also subpoena other individuals who can testify on your behalf. An administrative law judge (ALJ) conducts the hearing, which is tape recorded. The ALJ must be a DCFS employee and also an attorney.
Within 15 days of the hearing, and 90 days of filing your appeal, the ALJ must create a written report, in which he or she makes a decision based on whether there is enough evidence of abuse or neglect. The director of DCFS considers that recommendation, and then either adopts, rejects, or modifies it, finalizing the administrative appeal process. If the final decision confirms that there is insufficient evidence to corroborate the initial complaint, the original report can be expunged from the DCFS central database.
Contact a DuPage County Child Endangerment Lawyer
A report to DCFS can turn your life upside down. In some cases, an allegation of child abuse or neglect is based on false evidence. The accomplished legal team of Anderson Attorneys & Advisors has successfully handled numerous DCFS cases and we are dedicated to helping you come out of the process with your reputation intact. Our qualified Wheaton child abuse and neglect defense attorneys will utilize their knowledge and experience to obtain the best possible outcome. Call us today at 630-877-5800 to schedule a free consultation.