There are many reasons why families come to the attention of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Sometimes DCFS threatens to take away your children, and sometimes DCFS actually does separate you from your children temporarily. It can be a very scary and confusing process.
It is possible that you are experiencing other challenges that brought you to the attention of DCFS or challenges that are making your interaction with DCFS more difficult.
- Lack of money
- Child care
- Access to medical care
- Being a survivor of gender-based violence
- Mental health
- Substance use
- Your child’s health
Maybe your family isn’t facing any of these challenges. The fact is, any family can come to the attention of DCFS at any time.
If DCFS is investigating your family or if you have received a notice that you were “indicated” for child abuse or child neglect, we may be able to help.
DCFS investigations begin when someone calls the DCFS “Hotline,” to report suspected child abuse or neglect. At the beginning of the investigation, the investigator is required to talk to the person who called the Hotline and to the child’s parents.
You have the right to know what the allegations are against you. You have the right to be told approximately when and how you are alleged to have abused or neglected a child. You also have the right to present as much evidence contradicting the allegations as you would like.
If you work with children, you should notify DCFS right away that your job involves work with children. While you might be afraid to tell DCFS this information, it will actually provide you some added protection for your career.
To learn more about investigations, please see our guide.
Once DCFS finishes its investigation and determines that you have neglected or abused a child, you should receive a letter stating that an “indicated finding” has been made against you. That finding is also registered in the State Central Register for various lengths of time depending on the seriousness of the allegation. The only way to get rid of a finding after it is registered is to have it overturned through the DCFS administrative appeal process.
Not everyone is affected by a finding in the same way. For people whose children are grown and people who have no intention of ever working with children, the consequences may be much less significant than for parents of younger children, persons planning to adopt children, and people who work in a child care field such as day care or social work.
Once you are “indicated,” you may decide to appeal the finding. In DCFS terms, your appeal is a request for an expungement hearing.
An expungement hearing is an administrative hearing that is convened by an administrative law judge. Hearings are legal proceedings that include the presentation of witness testimony and other evidence, including documents like pictures and medical records. Following the hearing, the judge will make a recommendation to “indicate” or “unfound” (drop) the allegations against you. The judge’s decision is only a recommended decision; it must still be reviewed, and approved or rejected by the DCFS Director.
If your expungement is denied, you can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court in your area.
If you are going through an investigation or appeal process, our team may be able to help advise you, take your case, or refer you to an appropriate attorney in your area. Please contact us to learn more about DCFS cases and how we can help.
To learn more about representing yourself during an appeal, please see our guide.
For attorneys who would like to learn about representing a client during their appeal, please see our guide.