Being indicated by DCFS can be one of the most challenging times in one’s life. Fortunately, those being investigated are entitled to their own rights. Upon being indicated for a child abuse or neglect finding, the standard of proof is preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the State is responsible for providing necessary evidence to prove the finding. Unfortunately, DCFS investigations are commonly wrongly indicated. Once indicated, the alleged perpetrator’s name will be in the DCFS State Central Register for a varying amount of time, depending on the seriousness of the allegations. If you have been indicated by DCFS for child abuse or neglect, and believe your case to be unfounded (meaning the State has not provided sufficient evidence to support the finding) you have the right to challenge or appeal the indicated finding. The following list provides a few necessary measures one should take in order to appeal an indicated report.
Be careful about cooperating with DCFS. Remember, DCFS investigators are out to gather evidence to support their suspicions that you should be indicated. In addition, they are obligated to turn over any alleged evidence to the police. Whatever you say to them can be used against you to indicate you – as well as by the police. On the flip side, if you don’t cooperate with DCFS they may take protective custody of your children and you can end up in juvenile court. Whatever you do, be judicious and think carefully before working with DCFS.
Request an “expungement hearing.” Your appeal, in DCFS terminology, is known as an expungement hearing. During the hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) will preside over the case, which can last anywhere from as long as a half day to multiple days. The hearing will consist of any necessary testimonies made by witnesses, and the presentation of all evidence. The final outcome of the hearing will consist of the judge either indicating or unfounding the allegations. However, the judge’s decision is only regarded as a recommendation, subject to the final decision of the DCFS director. Keep in mind that if there are multiple allegations against you, it is possible for one allegation to be founded and another unfounded. In the event that expungement is denied, the decision can then be appealed to the Circuit Court in your county.
Consider hiring a qualified family lawyer. Ensuring your most qualified representation as you appeal an indicated finding by DCFS is of utmost importance. The appeal process through DCFS’ internal system, or through the court system, is a complicated one, and an attorney experienced in handling DCFS matters will be a valuable resource to you as you handle this situation. Investing in an attorney’s knowledge and skills in the courtroom is your most reliable option as you seek expungement, and will pay off significantly once the case is closed and you can return to a normal life with your children. Your attorney will protect you from the effects of being indicated by DCFS, including having your children removed from your custody; losing your job for reasons associated with DCFS’ findings; and preventing you from working in certain fields involving children. Additionally, having an attorney represent you in court will help ensure that the trial moves along as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
Being indicated by DCFS can be one of the most frightening experiences for any parent. For more information on your options regarding how to appeal an indicated finding, please 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.