Parenting is like having second and third full-time jobs in addition to the work you do to pay the bills. You never know when your children will get into a fight with each other or trash the kitchen in an attempt to help out by making dinner.
You have an obligation to shelter your children and support them until they become adults. Discipline and structure are often important parts of a healthy family dynamic. Unfortunately, your attempts at discipline – or completely unrelated incidents – could trigger an investigation and even allegations of child abuse.
How can you protect your family if the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has opened an investigation?
Know and assert your rights
When you understand what happens during a DCFS investigation, you are in a better position to handle the process appropriately. Often, parents don’t find out about an investigation until either a state worker knocks on the front door or their children come home from school talking about a very uncomfortable conversation they had with a strange new person in the school conference room.
An investigation will start when someone, possibly a mandated reporter like a school employee or a nosy neighbor with inaccurate assumptions but good intentions, calls the state to report suspicion of child abuse. The investigation process will involve substantiating the claims or showing that they are false.
DCFS workers talking to your children at the school is often the first step in that process. Talking to you and trying to gain access to your house are both also crucial steps. You do not have to talk to DCFS workers when they come to your home, nor do you have to let them in the front door unless they show up accompanied by police officers and bearing a warrant. Keep in mind, however, that absolute non-compliance might push those workers to take more extreme measures, like requesting an emergency removal of your kids.
You will probably need professional help
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to get support from someone who has dealt with these kinds of investigations before. When you have advice about how to act and information about your rights, you can comply enough to end the investigation without making mistakes that could affect your parental rights.
Being proactive when you find out that you are under investigation for child abuse can help you protect your family during what could be a very difficult time.