In this article, we explain parents’ visitation rights after children have been removed by the court in a juvenile case based on alleged abuse or neglect. For more on the process of removing a child from a parent’s custody based on reports of abuse or neglect made to the DCFS, check out our article, How to Remove a Child from the Parent’s Custody.
The Juvenile Court Act is intended to keep families together if it is possible to do so without creating an undue threat of harm to the child. Therefore, when a parent has had a child temporarily removed from his or her custody due to a recommendation to the States Attorney from the DCFS or a petition filed by a concerned third party, the parent has certain rights to visitation with the child.
The goal of the law is to ultimately reunite the parent and the child after the parent completes a DCFS service plan, which may include therapy, parenting classes or rehab, in order to make the parent’s home environment safe for the child.
For all children in temporary custody in juvenile cases or in cases in which the DCFS service plan’s goal is to return the child to the parent, as opposed to permanently removing the child frem the parent’s custody, the parent must be allowed a weekly visit with the child at a minimum. If possible, the visits must be in a home-like setting.
Within 3 days of non-emergency placements of the child in non-parental custody and within 10 days of emergency placements, the DCFS is required to prepare a visitation plan, with the first parental visit taking place within 2 weeks of placement in the custody of a non-parent.
If the minor will be safe in an unsupervised visit, the parent may request that visits be unsupervised. If the judge is not comfortable with unsupervised visits initially , the judge may grant unsupervised visits at the discretion of the DCFS caseworker. This will allow for unsupervised visits once the parent demonstrates to the caseworker that such visits will not create an unsafe environment for the child. The DCFS caseworker may also agree to supervision by another adult family member.
Seeking visitation, being present for all scheduled visitation, and recording parental presence at visitation are all important factors in the court’s final judgment as to whether to ultimately return the child to parental custody.