Children depend on the care of their parents, which means that they are quite vulnerable. Certain challenges, including abuse and neglect, can harm children both physically and mentally. In some cases, the state has to intervene.
An investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) does not inherently mean that parents in Illinois will face some kind of legal challenge. However, an investigation is often the starting point of temporary removal of children from a household or the prosecution of parents for abuse or neglect.
Doctors, teachers and childcare professionals are among the numerous mandated reporters in Illinois. They have a legal and professional obligation to report certain issues to the state, including injuries that look like child abuse. What are the injuries that often lead to investigations into a family?
1. Severe injuries in very small babies
There are many reasons that an infant could end up hurt, ranging from a parent falling while carrying the child to an older sibling not understanding the limitations of a baby’s body. Medical professionals will frequently report any significant injuries, like broken bones, in children who are not yet mobile. Before a child can walk, the possibility of such injuries occurring naturally is lower and therefore such situations often warrant review.
2. Severe injuries with implausible explanations
Broken bones, lacerations and bruises on older children could also lead to healthcare or educational professionals reporting the matter to the DCFS. When a child refuses to give an explanation for how they got hurt or when their explanation defies reason, professionals might assume the worst and ask the state to look into the situation.
3. Multiple injuries in different stages of healing
Child abuse is often a recurring issue, not a one-time incident. Parents consistently use inappropriate physical discipline, resulting in a variety of scars and wounds in differing stages of healing. Especially when there appears to be a pattern to the injuries, that can make professionals suspect that they are the result of abusive behavior rather than accidents.
Any suspicious injuries may trigger a report and an investigation. An investigation by DCFS can lead to dire consequences for the family that has been targeted. Responding appropriately to a DCFS investigation is crucial for parents with a child who has recently suffered physical harm for any reason.