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LEGAL ADVICE FOR ILLINOIS PARENTS FROM THE ILLINOIS LEGAL AID ORGANIZATION

ILLINOIS_FAMILY_RIGHTS_ASSOCIATION
| Home | ILLINOIS_FAMILY_RIGHT_MISSION_STATEMENT | THE ILLINOIS_FAMILY_RIGHTS_GAZETTE FOR SUMMER/AUTUMN OF 2006 | LIFTING THE VEIL : | Interrogations, Repeated Questioning, Vilification | Investigative Techniques of Strip Searching Children | A Critical Look At The Child Welfare System | A Critical Look At The Child Welfare System | A Critical Look At the Child Welfare System: Falsfying Records | Turnover In Child Welfare | Anaylising Children's Drawings | A CRITICAL LOOK AT THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM | Foster Care :How Safe the Service? | A Critical Look At The Foster Care System:How Widespread a Problem? | A Critical Look At The Foster Care SystemFoster Care Financing | Foster Care: Incentive To Foster Care Givers | Foster Care:The Sectarian Agencies | A Critical Look At The Foster Care System: The Group Homes | A Critical Look At The Foster Care System: Medication of Children | A Critical Look At The Foster Care SystemFoster Care Outcomes | The Truth About The Adoption Industry | Help For The Adoptive Child Syndrome | What Parent's Can Do To Protect Your Family and Children? | LEGAL ADVICE FOR ILLINOIS PARENTS FROM THE ILLINOIS LEGAL AID ORGANIZATION | Information For Illinois Parents | My CPS Horror Story: By Karissa Elizabeth Ann Lowell | Are Your Children On The Auction Block By Cheryl Barnes Head of CPS Watch | New Page Title | Links

The only way to expunge an Indicated Report from the DCFS (Department of Children & Family Services) is through the agency's internal appeal process.

What does the term “indicated” mean in a child abuse report?

If DCFS decides that there is credible evidence that you have abused or neglected a child, it designates the case as "indicated". An indicated report goes into the permanent DCFS record called the Central Registry. Reports are kept in the Central Registry from five (5) to fifty (50) years depending on the severity of the incident. For some persons, an indicated report can keep them from getting a job in a certain field.

What does the term “unfounded” mean in a child abuse report?

If DCFS decides that there is no credible evidence of abuse or neglect then the case is designated as "unfounded". In these circumstances DCFS usually destroys the documentation of the investigation within 36 months. You should know, however, that the person who is being investigated can ask that the records be retained by DCFS. This is because some people who want to try to show that they are being harassed asked DCFS to keep the records of unfounded investigations.

What if I disagree when the DCFS decides the report should be indicated?

Persons who are "indicated" by a DCFS report have a right to appeal the finding that the report was indicated. If you appeal the report you will have the right to review records of the investigation (although information about the person who reported the alleged abuse or neglect will be deleted). You have a right to request an administrative hearing to appeal the "indicated" finding. You also have the right to bring witnesses and to be represented by an attorney or other representative in the hearing process. The rules on these kinds of hearings are found in DCFS Administrative Rule 336.

How long do I have to appeal the decision?

You must request an appeal in writing within 60 days from when the notification of DCFS's decision that the report was "indicated" was sent.

When will the hearing take place?

The administrative hearing will take place within 70 days from when you request the appeal. A pre-hearing conference must be held at least 15 days before the hearing.

What happens at the hearing?

The administrative hearing is conducted by a DCFS Administrative Law Judge (the ALJ). At the pre-hearing conference, the ALJ will determine what evidence and documents you and DCFS agree on and what witnesses both parties intend to call at the hearing. If the child is under 14, the ALJ will also determine if the child will testify or be involved in the administrative hearing.

During the hearing itself, the Administrative Law Judge listens to the evidence presented and reviews the documents admitted into evidence. The Administrative Law Judge then makes a recommendation to the Director of DCFS about whether you should win your appeal or whether the report should remain "indicated". The Director makes the final decision about whether to accept or reject the ALJ's recommendation. 

What if I disagree with the DCFS's final decision?

If you do not accept the DCFS’s final decision, you can appeal the decision in court.

Appeal, Appeal, Appeal.
When you are right you are right.
Ask the Court to appoint you an Appellate Attorney and file with the Illinois Appellate Court and if that doesn't work, File an Appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court.
Always make sure you file your Appeals on a Timely Matter.
 

What Parents Should Know When Someone Calls DCFS On Them

I am a parent and someone called DCFS on me, what should I do?

Unfortunately there is no simple or easy answer that covers how to respond when someone calls DCFS about you. Each case is different and has a different answer. But understanding how the DCFS and Juvenile Court systems work on cases involving parents, children and claims of child abuse is a good first step.

If I am working with a lawyer on a case involving my children, should I let my lawyer know if DCFS has been called on me?

Yes. The first thing to remember is that if you have an attorney working with you on the issue, you should always discuss your steps with the attorney. For people who do not have a lawyer working with them, you should consider whether you want to talk to a lawyer. Many DCFS investigations do not end up with a court or the police being involved. But many do end up in court, and some can lead to criminal charges. This article describes what happens in DCFS investigations so that you can understand what will happen. We will start with describing what happens when a call goes to DCFS.

What happens when someone calls DCFS?

DCFS stands for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. It is the agency that has the responsibility in Illinois to investigate claims of child abuse and neglect. When someone calls the DCFS Hotline (1-800-25-ABUSE), someone at the DCFS hotline first decides whether to take the call. This means that the person at DCFS must decide whether the reporter (the person calling the hotline) has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected, that the child is under 18, and that the report meets a number of other factors which DCFS and state law have determined are necessary to accept a report.

If the person at DCFS decides to take the call, he or she gets more information about the case, and the information constitutes a report of child abuse or neglect. The next step is a DCFS investigation.

What happens in a DCFS investigation?

First, someone at DCFS is assigned to investigate the case. This person is often from a division in DCFS called the Division of Child Protection (DCP for short). This person will generally talk to a number of different people. These people include:

  • the person making the report
  • the person accused of abusing or neglecting a child
  • other people in the family, and
  • persons who may be able to provide some helpful information about the circumstances.

Once again, DCFS regulations list all of the people who must be talked to. In certain investigations, DCFS conducts its investigation jointly with the police.

The purpose of the DCFS investigation is to find out if the child was abused and to decide whether the child (or children) are at risk in a home. If you are the person being investigated for possible child abuse or neglect, you should know that the investigation can affect your life in a number of different ways. Some of the main ways it can affect your life are:

  • A DCFS call can lead to a criminal investigation of what you are accused of doing and can lead to criminal charges against you; or
  • The DCFS investigation can lead to a case under the Illinois Juvenile Court Case which could lead to your losing custody of your child and/or the eventual termination of parental rights; or
  • DCFS can believe that you have abused or neglected your child, but decide to leave the child in your home while requiring you to follow a certain plan. DCFS may put the plan in writing. You should always ask for a copy of the plan so that you have a record of it; or
  • DCFS can also decide to make an agreement with you to keep the case from Juvenile Court if you agree to place the child with someone else. Sometimes this will mean that you place the child in someone else’s guardianship, like a relative. For more information on what guardianship is click here. Once again, you should ask for a copy of the plan.

You should also know that a call to DCFS can affect you if you are in the middle of a child custody proceeding. For example, if you are in a child custody dispute with a former spouse, and it is learned that DCFS has investigated you, a judge may want to learn what the result of the investigation was and why you were being investigated. A Person should never call DCFS to harass another person in a child custody case.

Is it wrong to make a false report of child abuse to DCFS if you know it is false?

Under Illinois law any person who knowingly makes a false report to DCFS commits the offense of disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor. Punishment can includes up to 6 months of jail and a fine of up to $500.

I’ve heard of something called “Indicated” child abuse reports and “Unfounded” child abuse reports. What do these words mean?

If DCFS decides that there is credible evidence that you have abused or neglected a child, it designates the case as “indicated.” An indicated report goes into the permanent DCFS record called the Central Registry. Reports are kept in the Central Registry for a time period from 5 to 50 years depending on the severity of the incident. For some people, an indicated report can keep them from getting a job in a certain field.

In other cases, the result of an investigation is that DCFS decides that there is no credible evidence of abuse or neglect. In such circumstances DCFS designates the case as “unfounded.” In these circumstances DCFS usually destroys all records of the investigation within 36 months. But the person who is being investigated can ask DCFS to keep the records. Some people who want to show that they are being harassed have asked DCFS to keep the records of unfounded investigations.

What about situations where I disagree if DCFS decides the report should be indicated?

Persons who are “indicated” by a DCFS report have a right to appeal the finding that the report was indicated.

At What Age Can Children Be Left Home Alone?
IN ILLINOIS

The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette.

Question

I have two sons age 8 and 9, who show great responsibility for such a young age. My question is, under Illinois law, at what age can they be left home alone?

Answer

Many people think there’s an answer to this question, but there’s not. There is no law or regulation that I found that says when kids can be left home alone. The only real answer is, “it depends.”

There’s no law, for example, that would get you fined for just leaving your kids home alone. For better or worse, it takes a problem or a complaint to trigger child neglect laws, which are probably what you’re worried about. And those laws don’t deal directly with when kids can be left home alone. All I could find was a regulation that says a day care center can’t leave kids under 12 unattended in cars.

At most, those and other laws only give a hint at what could be considered an acceptable age for leaving kids home alone. For example, DCFS doesn’t regulate the care of children once they reach 12 years of age, and Federal tax law cuts off the child care deduction at age 13. Maybe those laws suggest an age when child care is no longer necessary. But that’s a stretch.

The bottom line is that, no matter how old your kids are, there’s no guarantee that you’re safe from legal problems if you leave them home alone.

But the real worry is not about you being safe from DCFS. It’s about your kids being safe from harm. And their safety depends on many things, like their ages, their maturity, and your neighborhood.

My local Child Care Resource office gave me an excellent guide for determining when “self-care” is appropriate. It’s based on The Handbook for Latchkey Children and Their Parents, by Lynette and Thomas Long. By answering a series of questions that consider many different factors, you can get a good idea of what to do. Their test suggests that, even under pretty much ideal conditions, you should be “hesitant” about leaving an 8 and 9 year old alone for more than 3 hours.

What Happens If My DCFS Case Goes to Juvenile Court?

Why do some DCFS cases go to Juvenile Court?

Cases from DCFS investigations go to Juvenile Court for two main reasons:

  • To remove children from a parent’s care, or
  • To provide court supervision over the parenting in a home.

In most counties the decision of whether the case will go to court is made by a state’s attorney, although the Juvenile Court Act allows "any adult person" to file a petition. In some larger counties, like Cook County, there is a whole court building devoted to Juvenile Court cases. In smaller counties, juvenile court cases may be heard in the same building as other types of cases.

What is a Petition?

A petition is the court paper that explains why the person or agency believes that the court should get involved in the life of the parents and child. On the top of the petition, the paper should state what court the case is in and should list the name of the child as follows, "In the Interest of Joey Smith, a minor". "Minor" is the word used in court to describe a child under the age of 18.

I am a parent and my case is in court, what should I do?

When your case is in court, the first things that you should think about are finding a lawyer to represent you and determining what you want to try to accomplish through the court proceeding. These two things can go hand in hand. In other words, an attorney can help you figure out what it is that you want to accomplish in court.

What can I try to accomplish through court?

As a parent there may be many different things that you want to accomplish in court. The steps that you take in court are often determined by what you want to accomplish. So working with your attorney to decide what you want to accomplish is a good first step. Here are a few questions to help you decide what you want to accomplish in court:

  • Are you trying to get a child whom DCFS has removed from you back home?
  • Are you seeking to keep a child from living with another parent who is abusive?
  • Are you trying to keep children in your care?
  • Are you asking to be relieved of all parental responsibility so that the child can be adopted?
  • Are you contesting whether the child was really abused? For example, is DCFS claiming that your child was abused, but you believe they are wrong?
  • Are you trying to make sure that your children who are in the DCFS system get the best care and services they can?
  • Do you view the court’s involvement as a time to seek help for a problem in your family such as addiction?

At different times in a case you may want one or more of these things to happen. Sometimes you will change your mind about what you would like to happen; you may want one thing at one point in a case and something very different later on.

Why is it important to have a goal?

No matter what your goal is, it is important for you to sort out what you hope to accomplish. The reason for this is simple. As a parent, you and the steps that you take can have a very strong influence on the outcome of the case. Unlike other court cases, such as criminal cases, which focus mainly on the past (such as deciding whether somebody did or did not commit a crime), cases involving child abuse or neglect focus on the past, the present and the future.

This means that if your children were taken away from you for a problem that can be fixed, such as addiction, you can influence the future of the case by working to fix the problem. On the other hand, if you have decided that you do not wish to parent a child, you can influence the future of the case by working to have another person adopt your child.

Is it important to have a lawyer when I try to figure out what I want to accomplish?

It is important to have a lawyer throughout the court case. Cases involving DCFS are often very different than other types of cases -- hearings in these cases have different names and many unique rules. An attorney who is experienced in these kinds of cases can help you as you try to sort out what you want to accomplish in the court and how to get to that point.

Are there any general rules about what I can do to try to get my child back if DCFS has removed him or her?

You should always try to talk with your attorney about the steps you are taking to get your child back, but there are some general rules to follow. First, try to visit with your child as much as is possible. As long as the goal of the case is for the child to return home, you should be able to visit with your child once a week, unless there is a court order limiting the visitation. Second, you should follow through with the services DCFS or the Court has asked you to complete, unless your attorney advises you otherwise. These services can include parenting classes, counseling, visitation, locating adequate housing, and ending a relationship with someone who is abusive. It is important to remember that many of the people who work with you in these services may be required to report to the court or to DCFS on your progress and what you say to them.

Sometimes parents are in a bind in these situations. A therapist wants them to admit that they have abused a child so that they can admit their problem, but the parents fear that if they admit abusing a child that this will hurt their court case or lead to criminal charges. There is no simple answer to this problem. But it is another example of why you should talk with an attorney whenever you have questions about these things.

Come To My Garden is the background for The Illinois_Family_Rights_Association. The music is written by Lucy Simon and Marsha Mason for the 1999 Broadway Music "The Secret Garden."
I hope you enjoy it.
 
~Karissa~

CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES IS NOT ABOUT PROTECTING CHILDREN IT IS ABOUT TAX INCENTIVE PAYMENTS TO THE STATE BY ADMINISTRATION OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.