Lake County DCFS Lawyer
Being the focus of an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigation can be emotional, frightening, and incredibly stressful. Little can be done to minimize these feelings. However, a solid first step is understanding your rights as a parent or legal guardian by obtaining a skilled Lake County DCFS complaints lawyer like Richard S. Kopsick.
At The Law Offices of Richard S. Kopsick, we put in the utmost work and effort to increase your family’s chances of a positive outcome following a DCFS investigation. Time is precious in these cases, so don’t hesitate to contact our dedicated Illinois DCFS lawyers today to help keep your family together.
The Role of DCFS
Keeping children safe is DCFS’ primary responsibility. The agency investigates abuse and neglect allegations and presents a determination of “indicated” or “unfounded.” It also files petitions with the juvenile court, but only the state’s attorney can prosecute these, as the agency is not affiliated with law enforcement, prosecutors, or a judge.
If abuse is suspected, anyone can file a complaint with DCFS, and the agency must investigate all accusations. While not all investigations turn into criminal cases, consulting a family law attorney to protect your parental rights is always a wise decision.
The DCFS Investigation Process
DCFS must follow up on any allegations of neglect or abuse and act on those findings, if necessary. DCFS can take two actions: do a family assessment or conduct an investigation.
A family assessment is an offer of assistance to the parents of a child. A DCFS official looks at the child’s safety, the future possibility of abuse or neglect, and the family’s strengths and weaknesses. A child maltreatment report contains this information, but it does not determine whether a child was mistreated. It merely addresses family safety needs and the risk of future maltreatment. If the family refuses help, there are no additional steps taken or findings of abuse.
On the other hand, an investigation is more than just an offer of help. It is an inquiry into a child’s current safety and future abuse or neglect risks. DCFS may immediately remove or get temporary custody of a child if the agency discovers severe abuse or if the child is at imminent risk and can’t be cared for by the custodial caretaker. It also happens if a temporary custody order petition is not filed quickly enough under the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987.
If this happens, DCFS has 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) to get a court order allowing them to keep the child in foster care.
Illinois DCFS Investigations
DCFS cases typically fall into one of the following categories: neglect, abuse, or dependency.
Abuse and Neglect Cases
Child and Family Services filed this type of case even if it’s believed only one parent is abusive or neglectful. There are many ways that child abuse may occur, including mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually. A parent or caretaker not providing a child’s basic needs, such as shelter, food, clothing, medical care, or adequate supervision, is considered neglect.
Per Illinois law, abuse and neglect of a child occurs when the following individuals harm a minor under the age of 18:
- A parent or a parent’s boyfriend/girlfriend
- An immediate member of the family or another person living in the house
- Caretakers such as babysitters or daycare workers
- Anyone responsible for a child’s wellbeing, such as medical providers, teachers, or coaches
A DCFS finding of abuse or neglect in your home can have personal and social repercussions and lead to the termination of parental rights.
A dependency case happens when a parent or guardian cannot take care of a child. This may happen for reasons that are not necessarily the parent or guardian’s fault, such as a debilitating injury.
What Happens If Your Children Are Removed?
A parent still has visitation rights with their child if the child is removed from the home. For children in temporary custody in juvenile cases or in situations where the goal is to keep the family intact, the parent is allowed a minimum of one visit a week.
What Happens If DCFS Substantiates a Claim Against You?
If DCFS findings indicate you for child abuse or neglect, this means the agency determined the allegation was credible.
You have certain rights if DCFS returns an indicated finding against you. These include the right to get a copy of the investigation file, request an administrative appeal hearing, and the right to judicial review after an administrative appeal hearing.
Other Parental Rights DCFS Illinois
You have the right to bar a DCFS investigator from entering your home. You do not have to give them private information they can later use against you. Furthermore, you have the right to refuse drug testing unless the court orders it. And you have the right to an attorney to represent you through the process. It is best to inform the investigator politely that your Illinois DCFS lawyers will contact them.
Getting Children Back From DCFS
If DCFS removes your child from your home, it is best to speak with your attorney directly to learn how to go about getting them back. However, some things you can do to help your case include:
Visiting your child frequently. You should be able to see them once a week unless there’s a court order limiting visitation or DCFS is seeking to remove the child permanently.
Completing any tasks DCFS assigns to you. These tasks may include counseling, parenting classes, substance abuse or domestic violence services, securing adequate housing for the family, and ending a relationship with an abusive person. Service providers may have to report your progress back to DCFS or the court. They may also be required to report your conversations. Be sure to keep track of appointments you attend and services you complete as proof.
Sending your child to stay with a relative. It may be helpful to move a child to a relative’s home during an investigation. A relative willing to do this should also come to court and support the parent. Judges may favor a parent with a support network.
Call the Waukegan Criminal Defense Attorneys at The Law Offices of Richard S. Kopsick Today
Regardless of how incriminating the case is against you or how dire your situation seems to be, Richard S. Kopsick and his team of skilled Waukegan criminal defense lawyers will work tirelessly to preserve your rights. Kopsick employ’s his vast knowledge and legal resources to lessen your charges or otherwise achieve the best possible result at all times. To get in touch with our top Lake County criminal attorney at The Law Offices of Richard S. Kopsick, call 847-623-8700 today.