In this episode, we explain how to remove a child from the parent’s custody and how to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS.
In this article...

In this article, we explain how to remove a child from the parent’s custody and how to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS.  We will answer the questions, "what is the DCFS?", "who is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the DCFS?", "what are the penalties for failing to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS?", "what happens once a case of child abuse or neglect is reported to the DCFS?", "what happens during an investigation of child abuse or neglect?", "what happens if the Division of Child Protection" finds evidence of child abuse or neglect?", "what happens if a child abuse or neglect case goes to court?", and "can a non-parent initiate court proceedings to remove a child from a parent's custody?" 

This article explains how to remove a child from the parent's custody and report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS. We will answer the questions, "what is the DCFS?", "who is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the DCFS?", "What are the penalties for failing to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS?", "What happens once a case of child abuse or neglect is reported to the DCFS?", "What happens during an investigation of child abuse or neglect?", "what happens if the Division of Child Protection" finds evidence of child abuse or neglect?" "what happens if a child abuse or neglect case goes to court?" and "can a non-parent initiate court proceedings to remove a child from a parent's custody?" 

What is the DCFS?

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is responsible for investigating reports of child abuse or neglect, working with families to implement plans to solve the root problems that cause abuse or neglect, and, if necessary, referring cases to the Illinois State's Attorney's office to protect the child. 

Who is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the DCFS?

The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act lists several dozen types of people who come into contact with children and are required to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to the DCFS. Broadly speaking, if you are an educator, daycare worker, medical professional, psychologist, or counselor, you probably have an obligation to report to the DCFS. 

What are the penalties for failing to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS?

If you are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the DCFS and fail to do so, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If you fail to report multiple times, the penalty will be more significant. 

How to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS

Whether you are a medical or educational professional who is required to report child abuse or neglect, a concerned family member, or simply an unrelated person concerned for the child's well-being, you can report suspected child abuse or neglect to the DCFS by calling the following toll-free hotline: 800-25-ABUSE. If you report a case to the DCFS, your name will be kept confidential and will not be revealed to the parents.

What happens once a case of child abuse or neglect is reported to the DCFS? 

When the DCFS receives a child abuse or neglect report, the first step is for a worker for the Division of Child Protection to make an initial investigation and initial determination as to whether the report is a good faith indication of alleged child abuse or neglect. The DCP worker will usually speak to the reporter and the alleged victim before making this determination. If the DCP determines that the report is a good faith indication of alleged child abuse or neglect, the DCP will initiate a formal investigation.

What happens during an investigation of child abuse or neglect?

Once a formal investigation begins, the DCP must complete the investigation within 60 days unless it has reasonable cause to extend this deadline. The DCP will generally interview the parent or guardian and witnesses. If a parent or guardian refuses to cooperate with the DCP, the DCP is free to make inferences from the parent's refusal to cooperate, which may impact the investigation. 

Once the formal investigation is complete, the investigator will classify the case as:

  • Undetermined: meaning that the investigator was unable to complete the investigation by the deadline;
  • Unfounded: meaning that there was no credible evidence to support the allegation; or
  • Indicated: meaning that there is credible evidence to support the allegation of abuse or neglect. 

What happens if the Division of Child Protection finds evidence of child abuse or neglect?

If the DCP classifies a case as "indicated," the DCFS report will be kept in the state central register for at least five years. More serious reports are kept in the register for 50 years. 

The DCFS will then decide whether to refer the case to the State's Attorney or work with the family to develop a voluntary "service plan" to preserve the family. Also known as a "safety plan," this plan is intended to remove the root causes of abuse or neglect while avoiding removing the children from the parent's custody. Elements of the plan may include substance abuse treatment or counseling. 

If the DCP investigator believes that court intervention is necessary to protect the child, or if the service plan is unsuccessful, the investigator will request that the State's Attorney file a petition with the court. 

What happens if a child abuse or neglect case goes to court?

Once a child abuse or neglect case goes to court, a temporary custody hearing will be held to determine whether the child should be removed from the custody of the parent or guardian during the pendency of the case. A protective order may be entered to ensure the child's well-being until a final determination in the case. Ultimately, a final hearing will be held at which the court will determine whether to remove the child from the parent's custody. Whether the parent has cooperated with any protective orders will play a significant factor in this decision. 

Can a non-parent initiate court proceedings remove a child from a parent's custody? 

While the most common way that concerned parties act to protect a child they believe to be abused or neglected is to report to the DCFS, any person may file a petition to initiate a case to determine wardship. In these cases, the State's Attorney will proceed with the case as if the DCFS had submitted a request for a petition. 


Posted 
November 16, 2020
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