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Illinois DCFS Defense Attorney Answers Commonly Asked Questions

Lawyer For Help With Cases Involving the Department of Children and Family Services in DuPage, Kane, Cook, Will and Kendall

Legal Question: Is it legal for DCFS to question my child at school without my consent? My ex-boyfriend called DCFS on me because I no longer wanted to be with him. What does it mean if I get a letter from DCFS saying that the allegation was false?

Yes, a DCFS caseworker can go to your child's school and speak with your child without your knowledge or permission, especially if DCFS is investigating whether you did something wrong to your child. If you received a letter from DCFS, it would state that either the allegation was founded or unfounded, rather than stating that the allegation was “false". That means that DCFS determined that they are not going to proceed on the allegation your boyfriend made against you; however, that doesn't mean that the police won't still investigate or that you won't be charged with a crime. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can two young children who are unrelated and of opposite sex share a room? I live in a two-bedroom condo and my fiancé will be moving in with her 3-year-old son. I have an 8-year-old daughter, who I am fighting to get back from my mother. Is this a legal or DCFS issue for them to share a room?

If you are involved with DCFS, DCFS doesn't want two children (even if they are related) to share a room -- especially if the two children are of opposite sex. So yes, this will be a problem for DCFS. DCFS requires that they have separate bedrooms. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Why would DCFS put kids in a foster home if family member can take them? My grandchildren were taken from my daughter-in-law and put in a foster home. I’m their paternal grandparent, very involved in the kid’s lives, and willing to care for them.

It depends the DCFS caseworker; however, the goal of DCFS is to keep kids with their family members. But before DCFS can give you the kids, DCFS needs to do a background check, which takes time, and depending on whether or not there is time, DCFS may initially place the kids with a foster family, who have already completed a background and are already approved to take in kids. If you want the kids, you can request that the court give you the kids while the case is pending, or you can hire an attorney who is extremely experienced in abuse & neglect law to do this for you. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can detectives still be investigating an alleged child abuse case even after DCFS said it was unfounded? My ex-husband took my children four years ago after making allegations against me. He moved them to Colorado and has continued to make false accusations against me. DCFS has investigated the allegations and all of them were unfounded. Now the police came to my mom’s house and they want her to go to the police station and talk to a detective. They won’t tell her what it is about except that it’s about her grandchildren.

Yes, detectives can still investigate an alleged child abuse case even after DCFS determines that the allegations are unfounded. The investigations and the investigating agencies are completely different. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Is it legal for a school social worker to question my child without me present? My daughter went to school crying because she couldn't find socks she liked so I gave her a slight push to the door telling her “let's go before we are late”. She went to school crying because of the socks I had her wear. The social school worker asked her why she was upset and took it way out of context and notified DCFS that my child had cuts, bruises, etc.

A school social worker is allowed to question and speak with your child without your knowledge or permission, especially while your child is at school. Moreover, the school social worker is a mandated reporter, meaning that if the school social worker sees injuries to a child, the school social worker is required by law to contact DCFS. Make sure you have an attorney who is experienced in abuse/neglect law assist you with DCFS, as it can be a long and confusing process. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

What is the likelihood I will be charged with child endangerment? After switching cars with my husband, I was distracted and forgot my husband put my 2-year-old in his car seat. I went into the drug store and left him in the car sleeping for 15 minutes. Someone called the police and they are now sending it to the states attorney’s office pending child endangerment charges. The weather was nice that day. Is it likely they will press charges?

Whether you get charged with anything depends not only the facts of this case, but a variety of other things, including whether you have ever been arrested before and, if so, if it was for anything similar to this or involving children. If you do get charged with something, the charges can vary but most likely will be for a misdemeanor (depending on whether or not you have been arrested before and if you have any prior arrests or convictions). You should probably speak with an attorney who is experienced in criminal law to help you. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can I call the police on my younger (13-year-old) brother? My younger brother attacked me after I locked the door after him. He has a key and came back in and we had a fairly serious altercation. I was wondering if I can do anything legally since he's 13 and I am 21?

Just because your younger brother is 13 years old doesn't mean that he can do whatever he pleases. You can still call the police as a 13-year-old can get charged with Battery under the juvenile laws, which will get him the help he needs so that when he is an adult he won't continue this behavior. If he does get charged or gets involved with probation now when he's 13, then there are many services available for you, him, and the rest of your family - including counseling / therapy and anger management, which can teach him how to deal with situations without resorting to violence. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Is it illegal for a parent to give a minor child prescription Amoxicillin that was not prescribed to that child? My ex-husband has done this on more than one occasion.

Yes, this is illegal. If you and your ex-husband had to go to court to address child custody issues, you can always tell your attorney, who can file a petition with the court. Or else, if you are concerned and believe that your child is currently in danger, you can always contact the police department in the town where your ex-husband lives and tell the police what is going on and that you need a well-being check on your minor child. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

If you are falsely accused of child abuse and it was unfounded can this still affect you applying for jobs? My nephew’s father created a false report on me for abusing his son. The case was determined as unfounded.

Child abuse investigations through the juvenile court system or the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are sealed - meaning, that the general public cannot know about them as these cases involve children. From what you have described it sounds as if this allegation was just investigated by DCFS. If that investigation was unfounded, it will not be on your record and, most likely, will not affect you when you apply for jobs, but it depends on what type of job you are applying for and what type of background checks the job conducts. If you are applying for a government job or a job involving children, there is a chance that the DCFS investigation will appear on your record. If as a result of the DCFS investigation you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, then those cases will show on your record and could possibly affect you when you apply for a job. If a misdemeanor or felony case was dismissed, then perhaps you should contact an attorney who is experienced with handling expungements. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

How do I return a child back to DCFS custody in Illinois if I no longer want to be a foster parent? I have a foster child who is very violent. He can't stay at daycare or get a full day of school and I'm in the process of losing my job. The child is more than I can handle.

If you are a foster parent and the foster child was placed with you through DCFS, you should absolutely contact your DCFS representative right away and tell them what's going on. If this case is also through the court system (that is, through an abuse and/or neglect case where you or the child have to appear in court) it is essential that you call and speak with the guardian ad litem (GAL) assigned to the case ASAP as they are there to protect the child and do what's in the best interest of the child. The GAL is the attorney for the child and needs to know that this foster placement is not working out. Another option, if this case is through the court system, is to contact the CASA advocate or the prosecutor and let them know what's going on. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can a DCFS case that was unfounded be legally reopened even though there is no new evidence? A certain doctor notified DCFS that a child may have a sexually transmitted disease. The case was unfounded. The parents of the child are sure that they are victim of discrimination because of their nationality. The parents notified the medical board and department of regulation about this situation. The doctor is now threatening the family that she will make DCFS to reopen the case and that their child will be taken away from them.

Once DCFS has made a determination on an investigation, the only way a case can be reopened is to file an appeal challenging DCFS' decision. However, the doctor could always make a new allegation, which would start a new investigation. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Are police reports claiming domestic violence enough to affect child custody even if no one was arrested? The police were called to our home dozens of times but there are only three police reports. On each of the police reports, my ex-wife claimed I grabbed her or pushed her. There were no visible injuries and my ex-wife didn’t want to press any charges. Will this affect my custody case?

Even though nobody was actually arrested for domestic battery, just having the police respond to your residence for a report of domestic violence still can affect your custody case. You absolutely need to have an experienced attorney representing you with this, as the consequences are significant -- loosing custody or visitation of your child. Some potential arguments against your ex's claims of abuse may be that there were no injuries, that there were no charges, and that your ex just called the police because of this custody battle. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

How do I file a petition to keep my child away from his heroin addicted grandmother? Over the last 5 years, my ex-wife, against my wishes, has continued to put my son’s safety at risk by allowing her mother, who is a heroin addict, to interfere with my visitation with our five-year-old son.

Yesterday when I was dropping him off, she grabbed him by the arm, put him behind her and verbally and physically attacked me. She tried to push me down the stairs and dared me to take my son. I called the police and reported her for kidnapping and assault.

This is an unfortunate situation you are in; however, you do have a few options. One option is to obtain an order of protection / no contact order prohibiting your ex's mother from having contact with either you or your son. Another option is to file a petition before the judge who has heard your child custody case outlining all the abusive language and behavior towards you and your son, and requesting the court to prohibit your son from having contact with your ex's mother. A third option is that since you did file a police report, to press charges, and request that as a condition of your ex's mother's bond (if she got charged and arrested) that she not be permitted to have contact with either you or your son. A fourth option is to report her behavior to DCFS, who can then prohibit her from having contact with your son. All these options have consequences, so it is extremely important that you discuss each specific option with an experienced attorney. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

DCFS took my children away from their mother. Is there a way I can I get them back?

If DCFS took the children from their mother, then DCFS is required to have a hearing before a judge, which is called a shelter care hearing, to determine whether it was proper of DCFS to take the children away from their mother. When DCFS takes children away from a parent, DCFS attempts to place the children with a family member or very close family friend who does not reside with the offending parent (their mother). It is important that you appear in court and that you have an attorney who is experienced in DCFS and abuse/neglect law represent you if you wish to gain custody. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

How can I get a copy of an investigation report from a DCFS case?

You can only get this information if you were one of the parents or guardians in this matter. Otherwise, you cannot get any information as all these cases are sealed. How you can get documents from DCFS depends on what is going on with your case. So, you really need to take all your documents and show them to an attorney who is extremely experienced in DCFS abuse and neglect law. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

I need to know when is my DCFS case is completed. How will I find out? I was put under DCFS investigation 5 years ago because my 12 year-old son was left unattended and started a small fire.

You know when your case is over a couple of ways -- if you never went to court, then DCFS will let you know. If you went to court and saw the judge, the judge will tell you that your case is done. If you aren't sure, then you need to contact your attorney and ask them. If you didn't have an attorney, which isn't a good idea, then you need to contact your DCFS worker. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

DCFS has taken guardianship of my grandkids and they want to involve my grandkids’ biological father. Their biological father is not on their birth certificates. Does he have any rights to the children at all?

Unfortunately, even if he isn't on the birth certificate, if DCFS believes he is the father, the judge will order a DNA test. If the DNA test confirms that he is the father, he technically has the right to be involved with the children - including visiting them and even possibly having custody of them; however, there is always the chance that he doesn't want custody of the kids. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Does DCFS have the right to take my newborn baby from his mother if she (my girlfriend) has a DCFS case open with her other kids? My girlfriend has a case open with DCFS but I don’t understand how DCFS can take my son if he has nothing to do with an old case?

Being involved with DCFS is a complicated and lengthy process, and DCFS has several reasons why they can be permitted to take your newborn away from her, and it doesn't necessarily have to be because there was any abuse or neglect to your newborn. DCFS can take your newborn if your newborn tested positive for drugs, or due to the allegations against you or your girlfriend regarding your girlfriend’s other 2 kids. If DCFS takes your newborn away from you, DCFS is required to have a hearing before a judge wherein the prosecutor must prove why it was necessary for your baby to be taken away from you. Hopefully both you and your girlfriend have attorneys who are experienced in DCFS abuse and neglect law representing you. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

When can I see my child after my parental rights were voluntary terminated? DCFS came and took my children after many false allegations, although some things about the situation were true. In the end I was basically forced to voluntarily give up my kids and still be able to have contact and see them, or so I was told. It's been over a year now and my sister has my kids but tells me that DCFS says I can't see my kids but can only talk on phone with them. How long do I have to wait until I get cleared and am able to see my kids again?

If your parental rights were terminated, then you are never legally entitled to see your children -- and it doesn't matter if you voluntarily agreed to have your rights terminated or if your rights were terminated after going to trial. Once your parental rights are terminated, if you want to see your children, it is completely up to the new guardian of your children (in this case, your sister) as to whether you can see your children or have any contact, including phone calls, whatsoever with your children. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can I sue DCFS for starting an investigation against me when I was the mandated reporter who called them? I am a public-school teacher and have called DCFS multiple times involving a student of mine who I believe is being sexually abused. I also have notified the school counselors and staff of the situation. The following day DCFS arrived at the school and told me to have a union rep present. DCFS then stated they are labeling me as a “perpetrator” for not supervising the child properly.

Suing DCFS is a difficult task; however, you definitely have the right to speak with the DCFS investigator and his or her supervisor regarding this. Besides contacting DCFS, you also can contact the local police department so that they can investigate your suspicion that someone has sexually abused this boy. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Why is it taking years for DCFS to give my children back? They keep telling me I'll get my kids back if I complete what they ask. Two of my kids were taken by DCFS three years ago and I am still fighting for them. I've only had one visit a week in that time.

DCFS cases can take years -- unfortunately that is not unusual at all. Why it takes so long depends on a variety of factors, including the reason(s) why your children were taken from you in the first place, and whether you have complied with all the conditions and requirements set forth by the judge and DCFS to get your children back. You absolutely need to have an attorney who is experienced with DCFS abuse and neglect law representing you. You can then review all the service plans and goals which the judge has set for you and at your next permanency review hearing (which is where the judge decides what the goal should be and whether your kids can return home to you), your attorney can present evidence to show how you have met your goals and that your children should be returned to you. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

I was given a ticket for my child not being in a car seat. It was marked mandatory court appearance, could I be facing more charges? I was pulled over after drifting into another lane on the freeway. The officer saw my children in the car and not in a car seat. I just want to pay the ticket, but could I be facing other charges?

Most likely you will not face any other charges besides whatever ticket the officer initially gave you. The reason you must appear in court is that this is a serious charge, and, as such, you cannot just mail in a payment and hope for supervision. You absolutely need to hire an experienced attorney to represent you on this. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

By law is this considered child abuse: The girlfriend of a man I work with is very mean to his daughter. She excludes her, says very mean things. If the daughter has done something bad she gets sent to her room for hours. The father is not giving his daughter allergy meds that she is supposed to have. He is also not taking her to doctor’s appointments like he is supposed to.

This could be considered abuse and can be reported to DCFS for DCFS to investigate. It could be considered a harmful environment even if there may be no actual physical abuse occurring. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can my parents ask DCFS to take me away from them at the age of 17? Recently I reported my father to DCFS and when I told him, he told me that he was going to press charges against me for things I had done when I was around the age of 10. Then he tells me that he is going to ask DCFS to take me away to a group home because he sees me as a threat to his family. I need to know if he can send me away because he doesn’t want me around anymore.

If there is a DCFS investigation, since you are a minor (under 18 years old), your parents can agree that DCFS take you from them and place them with either a foster family, another relative, or a group home - the specific placement depends on a variety of factors. If you did some criminal things when you were 10, since you are 17 years old now, for most things your dad cannot have charges pressed against you because it happened too long ago and it is long past the statute of limitations. You really should make sure you speak with someone at your school whom you trust about this - such as a teacher, counselor, coach, the school resource officer, etc. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can a 15-year-old be removed from her parents if she does not feel that her mental well-being is provided for in the home? I'm the child in the situation, and I don't feel that I can get the mental help I need. My mother is the cause of it and I was wondering if there's any way I can be removed from her supervision if I am 15.

If you have mental health issues and your parent isn't getting you the assistance you need or your mother is the one causing the problem, you absolutely should speak to a counselor, teacher, social worker, coach, school resource officer, etc. at your school and tell them your situation. They can contact DCFS on your behalf for DCFS to begin an investigation. If because of your mom's actions you don't feel safe at home, you yourself can either contact your local police department, DCFS, or both of them. Your safety and mental health are important. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

What can I do if my school reported my dad for abuse after talking to me and I regret it? Recently I talked to my therapist about a situation that I had at home that involved my dad twisting my arm, stepping on my feet, flicking me in the head, and threatening to smash my pet lizard. The therapist reported it to DCFS. I also hit and kicked my dad to get him away from me because I was scared.

Even though it is tough for you now, you did do the right thing by telling your therapist. Your therapist is required by law to report any potential allegation of physical abuse to a minor to DCFS, which is what your therapist did. Once that report is made to DCFS, you cannot "un-ring the bell", that is, you cannot take back what you said; however, DCFS will interview you and ask you to tell them what happened between you and your dad. If this encounter between you and your dad was more a mutual physical confrontation, you could mention that to the DCFS investigator. You can also tell the DCFS investigator that you overreacted - if you truly do believe that you did overreact – or that you merely acted in self-defense, which should justify you hitting and kicking your dad. DCFS has 60 days from when your therapist made the report to DCFS to make their decision -- whether to indicate the allegation of abuse, that is, believe that physical abuse did occur by your dad to you, or unfound it, that is, saying that there isn't sufficient evidence to do anything about it. If DCFS does indicate this allegation, meaning, find that there was physical abuse by your dad to you, that isn't the end of the world -- that just means that DCFS may put a safety plan in place, such as if your dad gets upset with you, you or he are to go to separate parts of your house, or he is to leave the house and return a few hours later after he has had a chance to cool down. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

What would happen if I called DCFS to retract my statement if my school filed a report of abuse? My school just reported my mom and it’s tearing my family apart. I want to retract my statement to try and mend our broken relationship, and I don’t want DCFS involved.

You can speak with the DCFS investigator and tell him or her that you want to retract your statement, but it wouldn't stop the DCFS investigation at all because once DCFS gets a report of alleged abuse or neglect of a child, DCFS is required to investigate it. Moreover, if you now say that what you originally told your school was a lie or not the truth, you may be criminally charged, and you absolutely don't want that to happen. Telling your school what your mom did to you may initially be difficult and put a strain on your family, but you cannot allow this potential harmful situation at home between you and your mom to continue. Your safety is the most important thing. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

How can I get DCFS to stop their investigation? I am 16 years old and had a baby a few months ago. The baby’s father is older than me, and then he called DCFS on me. Will DCFS stop their investigation when I turn 18? They are threatening to take my baby away from me.

Unfortunately, you cannot stop DCFS from concluding an investigation – they are required by law to investigate every claim of abuse and/or neglect that is made to them. Moreover, DCFS will not stop their investigation just because you turn 18 years old, as DCFS investigates allegations of abuse and/or neglect allegedly committed by adults as well. The problem is that you are 16 years old and had a baby with a person who is legally an adult, and that adult can be charged with some extremely serious felony offenses and end up in jail and be a registered sex offender -- An adult cannot have sex with someone who is under 17 years old, and there is no stronger evidence of an adult having sex with a minor than the minor being pregnant with a child. DCFS merely has to do a simple DNA test to confirm that the adult is the father of that child. Regarding taking your child away from you, if DCFS believes that your home is not safe, DCFS can take your baby away from you. This is extremely serious for you and for the father of your baby, so both of you need to have experienced attorneys helping you with this. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

Can the police pursue charges if DCFS determines that the claims against me are unfounded? I was accused of abuse by someone. DCFS did their investigation and it was declared unfounded. Two months later the police said they want to speak to me. Can they bring charges against me?

Yes, the State’s Attorney can still bring charges even if DCFS has unfounded the allegation. If the matter the police are investigating is a misdemeanor, the police have 18 months from the date of the incident to charge you. If the matter the police are investigating is a felony, for most felonies, the police have 3 years from the date of the incident to charge -- but some felonies have a longer statute of limitations, so the police can charge you years later. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

What panel drug test does DCFS use in Illinois? I would like to know if my case worker will test me for Suboxone.

Most likely you will be tested for Suboxone, so if you are prescribed it or are using it, you should tell your caseworker that you are using it as most caseworkers appreciate the honesty; however, if you aren't prescribed it but are using it, that is a serious matter and you really need to have an experienced attorney representing you with this DCFS matter. (this post is for general information only and should not be taken as legal advice for a specific situation)

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