Any parent who has dealt with the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) knows that the process can be quite unnerving. In some cases, DCFS may take a child into protective custody if investigative measures reveal evidence of child abuse or neglect. In the event that DCFS takes custody of an abused or neglected minor, the Department will consider the best interests, health and safety of the child in determining the next course of action as it relates to placement of the child.
The primary goal of DCFS in determining the best living arrangement for the child is to determine a permanency plan. This means that the Department will create a timeline (usually 5 months or 12 months) which ultimately ends with a decision regarding the placement of a child into a permanent home where he or she can mature to stable adulthood. A few options are available regarding placement of a child who has been placed in the care and custody of DCFS. A child may be placed with a relative or a foster family, either temporarily or permanently. However, if possible, and if DCFS determines it is in the best interest of the child, the Department may recommend that the child be returned home. A child's return home is conditioned upon "whether the parents have made reasonable progress in correcting the conditions that led to the removal of their children from the home.
The following list includes the main criteria used by DCFS in determining whether the parents have made reasonable progress, and consequently whether the child should be returned home:
1) They have learned and demonstrated their ability to assure the health, safety and development of the child;
2) increased capacity to parent and to assure the child's health and safety as demonstrated by successful parent-child visits, appropriate involvement in more parental responsibilities (e.g., doctor's appointments, parent-teacher conferences, group therapy, involvement in recreational activities, better financial management, etc.);
3) an ability to care for themselves so that they can meet the needs of the child;
4) an improvement in parental choices, decisions and relationships that lead to a safer and healthier environment for their children;
5) their participation in the recommended services and demonstration of change, such as improved parenting, participation in counseling sessions;
6) their acceptance of responsibility for maltreatment of the child and show of empathy for the impact of the effects of the maltreatment on the child;
7) they have learned to ask for and accept help;
8) a better understanding of themselves resulting in an ability to identify warning signs and ask for help;
9) the presence of an ongoing support network consisting of other family members, neighborhood or community, church, etc.;
10) demonstration of a willingness to develop a service plan that contains a plan for maintaining the safety of the child at home and an understanding of the merits of the plan.
Additionally, if DCFS observes that the home environment would expose the child to domestic violence, if the parent fails to cooperate with the service plan, or if the parent demonstrates inconsistency in visits with the child, DCFS may deny the return home of the child and consider alternatives for permanent placement.
For more information on the return home of a child who has been taken into protective custody by DCFS, feel free to contact The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.