Perhaps you are in the middle of preparing lunch for your children when there is a knock at the door, and there is an employee from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) waiting to talk to you. Maybe your children come home from school, anxiously crying because they spent half of the day in a conference room answering questions posed by DCFS workers.
Individuals ranging from your family physician to your children’s teachers are mandated reporters under Illinois law and will alert state authorities if they suspect either abuse or neglect. How do you protect your parental rights when you are the subject of a state investigation?
Learn about your rights
The most important thing you can do to protect your parental rights when under investigation is to know your rights as an individual. For example, you do not have to invite a DCFS worker into your house unless they have a warrant or make a statement to them without an attorney present if you do not feel comfortable with the situation.
Asking them to come back at a later time even if they apply high-pressure tactics and documenting what they say if they threaten you could help you later as you try to make sense of this messy situation. When you know your rights, such as the right to have an attorney present and the right to refuse entry into your house, you can avoid making mistakes in a moment of anxiety that affect your family for months to come.
Understand the consequences of the situation for your family
Different scenarios could have different legal implications for your family. Allegations of neglect are something you could easily settle by scheduling a visit to your home when you have an attorney present so that workers can see you provide your children with food, clothing and all other necessities.
Statements regarding child abuse or medical neglect may require more research and support to adequately address. You need to know the nature of the allegations against you or the issue that gave rise to the case so that you can prepare to answer those allegations.
There is no one answer that works in all child abuse and neglect investigation scenarios, but it is generally advisable to get professional support as early in the process as possible to avoid the mistakes that people commonly make when dealing with state authorities.
Protecting your parental rights when facing a DCFS investigation can feel nerve-wracking but will ultimately be what is best for you and the children that you love.