For parents, few things are worse than being accused of acting in ways that could harm their children. Unfortunately, there are numerous situations where parents may be investigated based on claims that they have committed child abuse or neglect. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) may perform an investigation based on reports from people such as teachers, coaches, or doctors, or claims that abuse has occurred may be made during a divorce or child custody case.
If DCFS personnel believe that abuse or neglect has occurred, they may remove children from a parent's home or take other measures meant to protect children's safety. In these situations, parents will need to determine the steps they can take to resolve these issues, maintain custody of their children, and avoid consequences that could affect their family. In some cases, parents may be able to appeal the findings and request an administrative hearing to address these issues.
At J. Aldrich Law, P.C., we understand the difficulties that parents face when they have been accused of child abuse or neglect, and we work to help them resolve these matters effectively. We can provide effective representation in DCFS investigations, appeals, and hearings, ensuring that parents can present evidence to show that they are not a danger to their children. Our goal is to resolve these matters in a way that protects the rights of parents and the best interests of children.
After performing an investigation, DCFS will make a finding regarding whether abuse or neglect may have occurred. A finding of "indicated" means that DCFS has a credible reason to believe that a child has been neglected or abused, while a finding of "unfounded" means that DCFS was unable to uncover credible evidence of abuse or neglect.
In cases where DCFS makes an indicated finding, a parent has the right to receive a copy of the report detailing the results of the investigation and the evidence demonstrating that abuse or neglect occurred. Within 60 days after receiving notice of an indicated finding, a parent may request an appeal. This is known as an "administrative appeal" or "expungement appeal," and a parent will have a right to a hearing where an administrative law judge will review the facts of the case. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will issue an opinion on whether there is sufficient evidence to believe that abuse or neglect occurred and a recommendation for how DCFS should handle the case.
At the hearing, both sides may present evidence that is relevant to the case and call witnesses who can provide information about the allegations of neglect or abuse. For example, medical records may be submitted that show that injuries to a child occurred because of an accident rather than abuse by a parent, or people such as doctors, teachers, or family members may testify and answer questions about the relationship between a parent and child or other issues that affect a family. For an indicated finding to be upheld, DCFS will need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent has committed child abuse or neglect. That is, they must show that it is more likely than not that abuse or neglect occurred.
Legal representation by an experienced attorney is crucial when appealing DCFS findings. With the right advocate on their side, a parent can gather evidence supporting their case, demonstrate why findings of abuse or neglect were incorrect, and prove that they do not pose a risk to their child's safety, health, and well-being.
If you do not respond correctly during a DCFS investigation, you may face numerous consequences. In addition to a potential loss of child custody, an indicated finding of child abuse or neglect will result in your name being added to the State Central Register, and this information may be accessible by employers or others who perform a background check. To prevent the loss of custody, negative effects on your career, and damage to your reputation, you will need to take the correct steps to defend against accusations or appeal DCFS findings. The team at J. Aldrich Law, P.C. can provide effective, compassionate representation in these matters, and we will work to protect your rights at all times. Contact us at 630-953-3000 to arrange a free consultation and learn more about how we can help with DCFS matters.