Most people living in Illinois never have a reason to think about the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Although this organization has investigated family situations and taken legal action against people for decades, many people don’t really understand how they operate.
If you have received a letter from DCFS or if someone notified you of an impending report to the agency, you probably have questions about what will happen and what is at risk.
How does DCFS operate?
The main goal of DCFS is to protect children. They do this by identifying abusive households and removing children from them. They also sometimes help parents struggling with parental responsibilities plug in to support programs and resources. Many people will only interact with DCFS if someone else reports them or their family to the Department.
How does DCFS investigate?
Although professionals may take different approaches to reports of child abuse, endangerment and neglect, there are certain standard procedures.
It is common for DCFS to conduct an interview with the child involved while they are at school. If the children present no obvious signs of abuse or neglect and the investigation does not raise any red flags, then that interview may be all that happens.
If there is any reason for the DCFS professionals to believe they have substantiated the claim against your family, then the next step may be for them to reach out to you in person. They will likely come and knock at your door to ask to look around. That could also be the first step after an allegation of inadequate shelter or a dangerous home environment.
Do you have to let DCFS into your house?
Those dealing with an unwanted knock on their front door may wonder how much compliance is necessary. Unless DCFS workers show up with police officers and a warrant, they typically cannot compel you to let them into your house or to give them access to your children on your own property.
Asking to arrange for an appointment later when surprised by a DCFS visit at your home can be a good approach. You can then communicate with an experienced attorney and decide the next step to take.
What could DCFS do?
If they find any corroborating evidence of abuse, endangerment or neglect, DCFS could remove your children from your home temporarily. In cases where they believe the parents present an ongoing threat of harm to the children, they may go to court and attempt to terminate the parent’s rights.
Understanding the basics of what DCFS does can help you handle an unexpected visit or allegation of misconduct.