The Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) helps protect those who cannot protect themselves. The organization investigates claims of child and elder abuse, as well as allegations of neglect. It can remove children from an unsafe environment and sometimes go so far as to terminate a parent’s legal rights.
There is an investigation process that must occur before the DCFS can take action in all but the most extreme emergency situations. Those subject to DCFS investigations are often very anxious about what that process entails. They worry about what may happen to their children if they are transferred away from the family home. Most people expect that an investigation will exonerate them, but some people experience unfavorable outcomes. Those individuals may have the right to appeal the determination of DCFS. What does that appeals process involve?
Appeals required timely action
People will receive formal notice from DCFS if the organization substantiates the claims of child abuse or neglect during an investigation. Those who disagree with those findings have the right to appeal. Usually, an appeal needs to begin within 60 days of an unfavorable determination. Parents therefore need to know their rights and assert them as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they may lose their right to ask for a review of the decision in their case.
People can access state evidence
The rules for an appeal include protections for those facing unfavorable outcomes. The DCFS usually has to provide the evidence that led to the unfavorable determination to those subject to the investigation. Those hoping to exonerate themselves at an appeal hearing, also known as an expungement appeal, have a right to obtain a copy of the investigative file. The details in that file will help someone cooperate with a lawyer to begin preparing the most effective strategy for their upcoming hearing. There will be a prehearing, an evidentiary hearing where the person appealing can submit their own evidence and then a final determination. The whole process should take no more than 90 days from the submission of the appeal request.
Knowing and making use of appeal rights when the state intervenes in family matters can make a big difference for those who want to protect their families and their parental rights after a DCFS investigation. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.