What Happens if You’re Contacted by DCFS?

October 16, 2019

Becoming the sudden subject of a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigation can be an intimidating prospect, but it’s no reason to panic. Before doing anything else, we strongly recommend you contact a DCFS attorney in Rockford, IL to discuss your case and your next steps if DCFS reaches out to you.

Here’s what you should know about dealing with a DCFS investigation.

An overview of the investigation process

DCFS investigations are generally prompted by calls to the DCFS hotline. The person who takes the call will ask questions to gather information about incidents that occur, as well as information about the child’s name, address and type of abuse they’ve suffered. If the description of the incident meets the guidelines for an investigation, the hotline worker will pass along the information for the investigation to begin.

It is important to keep in mind that a DCFS investigation is not a criminal investigation. However, a DCFS investigation could occur at the same time as a police investigation into the same issue, meaning you can expect police and DCFS to work together when appropriate. This means anything you say to DCFS could be relayed to the police, or vice versa. However, remember that just because DCFS comes calling does not mean you will lose your child, or that the agency has already determined abuse occurred.

There is a 60-day window for DCFS investigators to complete a formal investigation. These investigations will determine whether there is any reliable evidence a child has been neglected or abused, if there is any risk associated with the child staying in his or her current home and if there is anything DCFS can do to help the family, such as recommending or providing surfaces in the area.

How do DCFS investigators gather evidence for their cases?

After the investigator first visits the home, they will begin to search for evidence of abuse in other places. You can expect them to conduct interviews with a variety of potential witnesses, including the person who called the hotline to begin with, the person who has been accused of neglecting or abusing the child, the child themselves and any teachers, family members or other people who might have insight into the abuse allegations or the child’s behavior and safety.

There is specific protocol in place the investigator must follow during the course of his or her investigation. This protocol is the Child Endangerment and Risk Assessment Protocol (CERAP). Depending on the circumstances, that protocol could recommend visits to the child’s home or any other place where the child visits, including places where alleged abuse or neglect may have occurred.

In the event that the child’s home is found to be unsafe, the first step the investigator is likely to take is arranging a safety plan with the parent. However, if the investigator believes the safety plan would not resolve the issue, they have the power to remove the child from the home to take them into protective custody.

For more information about your legal rights and the steps you should take if you’re subjected to a DCFS investigation, contact an experienced DCFS attorney in Rockford, IL at the Law Office of Brendan W. Caver, Ltd.

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